2017-03-17 / Front Page

MUSD a safe-haven district for students

Schools do not check immigration status or allow ICE agents on campus
By Caitlin Trude

As immigration policy remains at the forefront of the national political conversation, Moorpark Unified School District officials want to ensure undocumented students and their families know they’re welcome and safe at city schools.

On March 7, the MUSD board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution committing the district to being a “safe haven” for all students.

District Superintendent Kelli Hays referenced a letter Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, wrote to school administrators in December, encouraging them to adopt resolutions that ensure protection for undocumented students.

“Unfortunately, since the presidential election, reports of bullying, harassment and intimidation of K-12 students based on immigration status, religious or ethnic identification are on the rise,” Torlakson wrote in his letter. “Parents should know they are welcome on our school campuses regardless of their immigration status.

“Our schools are not and will not become an arm of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Instead, they will remain safe places for learning and teaching for all students, regardless of immigration status.”

While it’s not a legally binding document, the resolution is intended to address the fears among those in the Moorpark community.

“After receiving (Torlakson’s) letter, I did get some supportive phone calls from our site principals, sharing concerns that they had seen and heard directly from parents who were concerned, and some students as well, about their safety,” she said.

Under the resolution, the district promises to continue providing students “healthy learning environments where undocumented students may learn without fear” and to keep immigration authorities off MUSD campuses to the fullest extent provided by law.

The resolution also cites existing federal law, which states that school districts may not inquire into a student or family’s citizenship or immigration status, Hays said.

Multiple school districts in Ventura County have also adopted similar safe haven resolutions, including Oxnard Union High School District and the Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Paula, Hueneme and Fillmore school districts.

Several Moorpark residents showed their support for the school board’s decision by posting on Facebook.

“Thank you, Moorpark School Board members, for passing this resolution!” Joey Carnes wrote on the Moorpark Acorn Facebook page. “Even though it may not change our legal guidelines or procedures, it certainly does more than can be measured for students’ and families’ feelings of safety. I was a proud district parent to see this go through.”

Jacqueline Korteland Boller felt the same.

“So many students at the high school (are) so worried,” she wrote. “I hope this puts their minds at ease.”

To read Torlakson’s full letter about safe haven school districts, visit http://bit.ly/2jpCnA0.

To see MUSD’s safe haven resolution, go to www.mrpk.org/ Board/Agendas.aspx.

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