The realities of the school-to-deportation-pipeline and the criminalization of immigrant students forecast a bleak future for young people like Dennis Rivera-Sarmiento, whose story is featured in "The School-to-Deportation Pipeline." This toolkit offers educators ways to protect their students from this system of oppression.
1. What can my school do to protect its immigrant students from deportation?
2. What can I do to serve as a resource for my immigrant students?
How to Keep Students Safe
The most important steps schools can take to avoid pushing young people into the pipeline are to make sure faculty and staff know what rights their immigrant students are entitled to and to clearly articulate the school’s commitment to keeping immigrant students and families safe.
Make it clear: All students have a right to an education.
In the 1982 case Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court ruled that all students, regardless of citizenship status, have the right to public education in the United States. Students do not have to provide social security numbers, immigration documents or any such proof of legal citizenship to attend public schools.
Know the law: Respect student privacy.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects students’ information, including information connected to their immigration status. Some states have even stricter regulations around minors’ information being released to outside agencies.
Spread the word: “This school protects its students.”
Some districts have chosen to issue statements that determine that, without school board review and legal counsel, ICE and other law enforcement officials may not enter their campuses. Many of these statements include limitations, restrictions and language prohibiting collaboration between SROs and immigration authorities.
Be a resource: Identify needs and meet them.
While it is not necessary to officially designate a school a sanctuary location, there are many ways school leadership can support immigrant students and families. Consider signage that denotes safe and welcoming spaces. Offer educational classes and “know-your-rights” workshops for families and students. Host community meetings with local immigrant rights organizations or legal services. Widely share resources with coworkers and administration that benefit the immigrant community.
Did You Know?
How Many Students Are Undocumented?
About 725,000 students, or 1.3 percent of total school enrollment in 2014, were undocumented immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center.
Can ICE Agents Enter Schools?
The Department of Homeland Security put out an internal memo that refers to schools (along with churches and hospitals) as “sensitive locations.” At the time this story was published, there is no record of ICE entering schools. The current internal understanding is that, aside from “exigent circumstances,” ICE will not target schools. This is subject to change at any time and does not carry the full weight of the law.
Disclaimer: Teaching Tolerance does not offer legal advice. Please consult with your local school board counsel regarding legal questions specific to your school or area.
Use and share these detailed Know Your Rights resources grouped by theme and content type.
Debunk the misinformation students bring to school—and help them think for themselves.
In this lesson, students examine themselves within various contexts—including family, culture and community—as a means to better understand who they are as individuals and who they are in relation to people around them.
Naomi Tsu, an attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, answers questions about sanctuary cities.
Learn more about how you can support immigrant students and families as a teacher activist.