Insights for Equity
Responding to Travel Ban (February 2017)
By Mary Bussman, Equity Alliance MN, Equity Consultant, Professional Learning and Program Evaluation
I am writing in response the the president's travel ban that was issued Friday, January 27, 2017, limiting travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Because we saw an increase in bullying and harassing behavior immediately after the election, some students may choose to test the boundaries of bullying and harassing language and actions again. Therefore, we as school leaders need to increase our knowledge and vigilance on behalf of all our students. I'm writing with a few considerations as you discern best how to navigate this news.
We are required by law to provide safe environments conducive to learning. It might be wise to remind teachers and staff to be actively monitoring the halls, classrooms, and lunchrooms for signs of bullying. Encourage staff to intervene if they perceive a concern. If they have a hunch something is going on, it probably is and having an adult ask if everything is OK may be enough to send a message that teachers and staff care.
Encourage all students to report whatever they see. Bystanders really have to take action in these situations because victims often feel dis-empowered to report. They may feel that no one will do anything or even believe them. They may also not want to draw attention to themselves based on how they perceive their own status, and just put up with other's comments. Bystanders can help by intervening (when it is safe to do so), interrupting or changing the subject, generally becoming friendly or a friend of the victim, and/or reporting the incident. You and I know that adults do investigate, we do take action, and our students need to see that.
It may also be good to remind teachers and staff that schools cannot ask about immigration status upon enrollment. It is not our work to know whether a child is a legal citizen, here with a visa, or undocumented. We teach all our students.
The StarTribune published a letter from the editor this morning entitled, "School districts show support for immigrant families and students." In the article, we are reminded that schools are intended to be safe spaces for all students to learn. We don't ask and are not allowed to ask a child's status regarding citizenship, visa holder, or immigration. Here's the link to their article. I found it helpful to ground me this morning. You may find it helpful too.
Kristina Robertson, Roseville Area Schools English Learners and Adult Basic Education Program Administrator, provided the following links to further information for Roseville staff to support their students.
President Trump’s Immigration Order – Annotated (New York Times, January 28, 2017)
Refugee Facts: (The UN Refugee Agency)
Teaching Tolerance: Immigrant and Refugee Children Guide for Educators and School Support Staff
Q: Is there a federal law that prevents schools from sharing student information?
A: Yes. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), schools are prohibited, without parental consent, from providing information from a student’s file to federal immigration agents if the information would potentially expose a student’s immigration status. If ICE agents present a school with a removal warrant (deportation order), the school is still permitted to refrain from providing student information, as the warrant is administrative, not judicial. Under FERPA, schools may disclose directory information without consent, but they are required to allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Some schools [and the Southern Poverty Law Center] have also interpreted the Plyler decision as prohibiting them from requiring students to provide Social Security cards or birth certificates as a condition of enrollment, test taking or participation in school activities.
What Educators, School Support Staff and Communities Can Do
Thank you for your continued vigilance and understanding on behalf of all our students.
To download a PowerPoint presentation on Supporting Immigrant Families and Students in Our Schools, click here.
For additional tools and model resolutions to create safe, welcoming environments for all students, visit aft.org and see the toolkit for this story.
Analyzing Trump’s Immigration Ban: A Lesson Plan (NY Times, January 29, 2017)
Immigrant Law Center: Information on advocacy and links to elected officials
Information on President Trumps executive order banning refugees and Muslims
International Institute of Minnesota: Advocate for New Americans
Multiple resources for refugee facts and details of the refugee resettlement process as well as links to elected officials and advocacy suggestions.