The Fresno County Board of Education has signed a resolution vowing to support undocumented students, and is urging the 32 school districts in the county to do the same.
“Our schools will remain safe and supportive spaces for students and their families, free from intimidation, hostility or violence, including threat of deportation because of participation in the public education system,” states the resolution, signed by Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino last week.
The resolution says that while the county school system complies with subpoenas and court orders, it does not collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We maintain our commitment to remaining nonpartisan on politics, however, we want to respond to the fear and anxiety some students are currently experiencing,” the resolution states.
“All students should be able to access their education without fear or limitation on the possibilities for the future, in an environment that encourages them to realize their dreams. We will do everything we can to remove limitations and to nurture and prepare our students to thrive in a changing world.”
We maintain our commitment to remaining nonpartisan on politics, however, we want to respond to the fear and anxiety some students are currently experiencing.
Fresno County Board of Education resolution
Schools across the state and country have made similar proclamations, but it’s unclear if Fresno Unified – California’s fourth-largest district – will do the same.
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson urged districts in December to become “safe havens” in light of uncertainty surrounding immigration policies since the election of President Donald Trump.
Fresno Unified is set to take up the issue next month, but school board president Brooke Ashjian – a vocal supporter of Trump – has voiced his concerns about such a resolution, saying schools don’t have the ability to stop ICE.
“The school system has no business being in the immigration business. That’s not our business. This is not our fight,” Ashjian said earlier this month.
But on Tuesday, Ashjian said he supports the county proclamation “100 percent.”
Samuel Molina, state director of Mi Familia Vota, has led a petition calling for Fresno Unified to stand by laws that forbid ICE from entering schools without a superintendent’s permission, and to keep data about students’ legal status confidential. The petition says the presidential election “resulted in thousands of students and families in Fresno expressing fear, sadness and concerns for student safety, heightened because of intolerant rhetoric.”
Molina said he will join other advocates to urge Fresno Unified to sign a similar resolution at Wednesday’s school board meeting. “At this time, we’re very optimistic,” he said Tuesday. “We have school board members that we know support us and our community, so we’re looking forward to it getting passed.”
Fresno Unified’s interim superintendent Bob Nelson said in a statement Tuesday that Fresno Unified is committed to providing a safe environment for all students, pointing to current policies that protect students regardless of immigration status.
“We recognize that some of our students and families have genuine concerns given the national conversations and recent protests around immigration,” Nelson said.
While districts across the state have adopted the “safe haven” label, several Valley districts have not yet made the move.
Clovis Unified is not considering adopting a resolution, according to spokeswoman Kelly Avants, but has “reaffirmed laws and procedures that already have a number of protections in place.”
Central Unified is proposing a resolution that mirrors the county’s and will go before its school board next week. Coalinga-Huron Unified’s school board will also vote soon on the county resolution.