The Seattle School Board’s unanimous approval joins school districts across the country that have declared themselves sanctuary districts or safe havens in response to President Donald Trump’s push to curb illegal immigration.
Seattle Public Schools staff will never ask for a student’s immigration status and won’t allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents access to any student records, the School Board said in a resolution approved Wednesday.
The School Board’s unanimous approval joins school districts across the country that have declared themselves sanctuary districts or safe havens in response to President Donald Trump’s push to curb illegal immigration. School boards have passed similar resolutions in at least a dozen cities, including Portland, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis.
The political climate has caused anxiety for many Seattle students, who were born in 147 different countries, board members said. Since Trump’s win on Election Day, Superintendent Larry Nyland said, school leaders have looked for ways to alleviate concerns for students and their families.
“Our diversity is our strength,” Nyland wrote in a letter to families Jan. 30. “The detainment and potential exclusion of our Muslim, Mexican, and Latino neighbors, co-workers, and families has tested our resolve.”
At Wednesday’s School Board meeting, Board Member Jill Geary said she hoped Seattle’s resolution would inspire other school districts to adopt similar ones. Vice President Leslie Harris noted that other Seattle city leaders support the resolution.
“We are indeed in bizarre and frightening times, and it matters to stand up and be counted,” Harris said.
ICE officials have long said they don’t conduct raids at schools, and the resolution calls on the federal agency to continue that policy.
In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can’t deny students a public education based on their immigration status. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, students’ education records are protected. If an ICE agent requests information about a student, the resolution states, then staff members will refer the agent to the district’s legal office. The attorneys then will decide whether to grant access.
The resolution also encourages families to have up-to-date emergency contact information on record in case a student’s parent or caregiver is detained because of immigration status.
The School Board’s vote follows Mayor Ed Murray’s vow late last year that Seattle would remain a sanctuary city for people who immigrated to the United States illegally. He also set aside $250,000 to help children from immigrant and refugee families. The plan includes holding information forums for families and providing training about immigrant rights to Seattle schools staff.
Seattle’s being a sanctuary city limits the city’s involvement in immigration enforcement but doesn’t stop federal agents. Last week, for example, a 23-year-old Mexican man brought to the country as a child was detained in the Seattle area.