If hints of the federal government’s recent anti-immigration policy are being felt in California, the state’s public schools say they want no part of it.
A recent Assembly bill adds new layers of protection for public schools and colleges in the state that fear students might become the target of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.
Signed into law last year by Gov. Jerry Brown and put into effect in this summer, Assembly bill 699 requires public schools throughout California to uphold all equal protection laws.
The bill also requires schools to update their immigration policies by adding the phrase “immigration status” to the legal verbiage that protects student rights.
“For years, both state and federal laws have required public schools to provide equal rights and opportunities to all persons regardless of their gender, disability, nationality and sexual orientation,” said Las Virgenes Unified School District Superintendent Dan Stepenosky in a report on the bill that was presented to the board of education for approval Aug. 28.
The new law, Stepenosky said, outlines additional immigrationrelated mandates that school districts must abide by.
According to the law, school administrators may not “inquire, collect and/or retain information about a student’s or family’s immigration status or citizenship (and) will not release information to authorities for immigration enforcement purposes without a valid court order or judicial subpoena.”
The bill also guarantees that school staff will not allow students to be interviewed or searched by an immigration enforcement officer without parental consent, unless a valid warrant or court order is presented by the officer.
Families, regardless of immigration status, will still to be encouraged to maintain up-to-date emergency contact information for school use only.
Oak Park Unified School District also ratified the new bill recently.
Superintendent Tony Knight said his district previously collected copies of birth certificates to keep on record, but no longer does so.
“Even when we took copies of birth certificates, we didn’t determine a student’s immigration status and that was never of interest or concern to us,” Knight said.
The Oak Park District has never been contacted by a government official about the immigration status of any student, and has never provided any such information to the government, Knight said.
The aggressive raids conducted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the past two years under the Trump administration triggered the California legislature to take steps to protect students in public institutions regardless of their immigration status.