Hear Us Roar: Students, community call for action from RFSD Board of Education
If there were any lingering doubts about the insensitive decision to allow U.S. Border Patrol officers to attend a March 21 career expo at Glenwood Springs High School, the message relayed to the Roaring Fork School District school board Wednesday night was loud and clear: It is not OK for federal immigration enforcement agencies to be invited into our schools.
And the damage needs to be repaired.
“We expect our leaders to take responsibility, to develop a plan to heal and move forward,” Voces Unidas President and CEO Alex Sánchez told the school board. “You are either with your Latino students or you are against your Latino students.”
Several of those students showed up at the school board’s monthly meeting in Carbondale holding signs reading things like “No Border Patrol in Our Schools,” “Protect Students,” or reminding school board members and administrators that a majority of Roaring Fork School District students are Latino. Many of them stood before the board to comment directly.
“The problem I have is the inconsideration and ignorance toward Latino students who make up 60% of your district,” one GSHS student told the board and administrators. “The fact that 60% of students are feeling unsafe, unprotected, unwelcomed and unseen in your schools is a problem.”
“It’s your job to make us feel safe and to make us feel welcomed, yet you aren’t doing your job,” added another.
Board members were reminded of the 2016 Safe Haven Resolution passed by the school district after a number of incidents dating back to 2011, including school resource officers working part-time with federal immigration agencies who deported family members of students in the district.
Among its many tenets, the resolution states that district schools “will remain safe and supportive spaces for students and community members, free from intimidation, hostility, or violence, including threat of deportation,” and that district schools will “not collaborate with immigration enforcement agencies.”
“It was a violation of our trust with a school system that already has an ugly history with our community,” Sánchez said in a story published in the Glenwood Post Independent following the meeting.
Most board members made it clear that they understand and appreciate the message, some going so far as thanking the students for helping the district improve by standing up for what they believe in.
But after weeks of discussion came to a head on Wednesday, it is now time for action.
“We are very intentional with what we’re asking for. Now that we’ve seen a violation of the public’s trust, we want to see that resolution put into policy,” Sánchez said.
Voces Unidas has not been shy about expressing our requirements of the school district to strengthen policies to ensure similar incidents never happen. We have received apologies from the district superintendent, the GSHS principal and 4 out of 5 school board members to date. But there is much more to do.
Here are our four remaining demands:
The school board needs to codify the principles from the Safe Haven resolution, dated December 2016, in district policy and regulations to prevent any confusion, and further clarify that the district will not invite any federal agency, whose mission is to enforce federal immigration laws, to any campus, for any reason, unless compelled by a court order.
The school board needs to approve additional policies and regulations to hold schools and any third-party organization doing business or partnering with the school district accountable for violations to any safe haven provision.
The school district needs to provide additional training to all staff on existing and new policies, regulations, resolutions, protocols and public commitments related to being a safe haven school district.
The superintendent needs to create and convene an ad-hoc advisory committee of impacted students, parents and community members to advise the superintendent and the school district on any additional steps needed to reassure the community that this will never happen again.
The Roaring Fork School Board will meet for its second meeting of the month on April 26. We hope to see our requests included on the agenda for further discussion.