Letter to the editor: We need safe schools now

DACA Hunger Strike safe schools
Cendi Trujillo Tena, a recent graduate of Cardinal Stritch College, speaks as about three dozen people from Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Racine counties protest the possible elimination by President Donald J. Trump of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, on Monument Square in downtown Racine Saturday September 2, 2017. Six of the attendees are students or recent graduates who are participating in a hunger strike which began Friday and will end Tuesday evening when they march to the Racine Unified School District headquarters. / (c) Mark Hertzberg for Racine County Eye

As a leader in Youth Empowered in The Struggle, a DACA recipient, and a student in Racine Unified School District, I am disappointed with the RUSD School Board’s decision to pass an ineffective “feel good” resolution regarding the impact of administration action on DACA students.

The letter and Safe Zone replacement resolution proposed by board member Brian O’Connell, and passed by the full board, falls short of what is needed to protect our undocumented students. Teachers, parents, students and other community members had worked for over eleven months creating a concrete “Safe Zone” resolution to keep our students and families safe in their environment of education. Many parents, students, and community members spoke both individually with school board members, as well as during public testimony at the RUSD board meetings, regarding the dire need for the resolution.

This is a legally vetted resolution that has been passed by other school districts. It will not cost the Racine Unified School District additional funds to implement. The proposal that was passed this week by the RUSD School Board was developed in a vacuum. Mr. O’Connell did not consult with us before drafting a new resolution to replace the one developed by the community and students. This new resolution falls short of what we believe is needed in order to protect our undocumented students.

The replacement resolution states, “…the district already provides a ‘safe zone’ in which to learn.” As a student who is highly involved in my school and my community, but also lives in constant fear of deportation and oppression, my fellow undocumented students and I do not feel safe in our schools. The RUSD Board continues to ignore this fact. This resolution does absolutely nothing to allay our fears and establish an environment of confidence and trust in RUSD.

As DACA recipients we know that we are being actively targeted for deportation by the Trump administration, regardless of our accomplishments and our deep ties to the community. The RUSD resolution fails to re-affirm strong protocols, which ensure that the school is a safe zone for immigrant parents and students. Why won’t the RUSD Board of Education publically state that they are against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducting raids in or around the school, using children (many of whom are U.S. citizens) as bait?

Is it any wonder why parents don’t come to school open house or conferences? The immigrant community knows where RUSD stands on this issue by the silence of school board members. Providing a clear protocol for staff to ensure conformity with the federal laws which do not require local police collaboration with ICE, and ensuring that requests from ICE are channeled through the RUSD administration and the legal department is not too much to ask.

Implementing the Know Your Rights training for students and parents, and a formal protocol for a rapid response in the event of a community raid is a common sense approach that will build trust and raise student engagement in school. The threat is real. The potential for deportations starts as DACA youth lose their protected status; we must act accordingly to stand up for DACA students and their families. October 5th was the cut-off date for any DACA youth whose visa expires as of March 5, 2018. Dr. Frontier has indicated that he believes our original resolution deserves a vote at the full school board meeting. We are ready, willing and able to once again meet with all school board members to clarify why this resolution is critically important for our community and to discuss any questions they may have. We are asking the RUSD school board to do the right thing– have an honest, public discussion with the community on the merits of our proposal, and vote it up or down.

Writing on behalf of:

Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES)

Fernanda Jimenez

Editor’s note: The views expressed here are those of the author’s. They do not reflect the views of Racine County Eye. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor, please email us at Denise@racinecountyeye.com.

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