School board votes to limit law enforcement interaction with students

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Mary Moran with Nuestra Voz at a New Orleans rally to preserve DACA Sept. 7. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • Mary Moran with Nuestra Voz at a New Orleans rally to preserve DACA Sept. 7.

The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) has approved new guidelines that immigrant advocacy groups hope will protect students from law enforcement interaction and intimidation.

“School should be a safe place for all children,” OPSB Superintendent Henderson Lewis, Jr. said in a statement Sept. 15. “The Orleans Parish School Board holds this as a basic principle.”

The policies provide guidelines for school administration for what to do when law enforcement and immigration agents arrive on a campus. The policies (which apply only to direct-run OPSB schools) clarify that "such investigations should not disrupt the education environment at school sites."
Law enforcement must report to the school's principal and explain why a student must be interviewed, and whether law enforcement has a warrant seeking student data or access to the student. The school also must make "every reasonable effort" to notify the student's parents or guardian before an interview takes place.

Family advocacy group Our Voice/Nuestra Voz attributed the vote's success to parent-, teacher- and community-level organizing around the issue. The group demanded OPSB adopt a student protection policy at an OPSB meeting in July.

“With this vote they have demonstrated that schools are for education, and not an extension of the criminal justice system," Nuestra Voz co-founder Henry Jones said in a statement. "This is a great first step, now it is about implementation. We look forward to working with all the other school boards across the city to pass this policy and to ensure access to education."

Last month, the OPSB supported a symbolic resolution clarifying undocumented childrens' right to a free public education.

A rally in New Orleans Sept. 7 called on city, state and federal officials, as well as candidates running in city- and statewide elections this fall to develop policies that protect immigrants and echoed calls to keep Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local police out of schools in the wake of the announced dissolve of the Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

"We've seen how hate has reared its ugly head," Nuestra Voz organizer Mario Mendoza said Sept. 7. "We've seen how our children are being mistreated in their schools. We see how our people are being arrested in the streets. All this is being unshackled by a racist federal government. If we believe in justice, we are standing up for our dignity by standing up for the dignity of another person."

The New Orleans City Council also passed a resolution Sept. 14 calling on U,S. Congress to preserve DACA and grant "dreamers" permanent legal status. The resolution "lets our dreamers know that we support them, we appreciate them, and we admire their bravery," District B Councilmember LaToya Cantrell said in a statement.


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