Taking action to support immigrant students, the Palo Alto Unified School District (USD) Board of Education discussed a resolution designed to safeguard students from the Department of Homeland security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and make PAUSD schools “sanctuaries for students to the fullest extend of the law.”
Spurned by concerns that immigrant students in PAUSD face increasing discrimination and threats from the Trump administration, Board member Melissa Baten Caswell and Board President Terry Godfrey drafted the resolution for discussion at the Board’s Dec. 13 meeting. The resolution garnered vehement support from community members and the rest of the Board at the meeting.
One community member supporting the resolution, Mev Steiner, President of the California School Employees Association for Palo Alto, reaffirmed the importance of creating a safe environment for students.
“By proposing this resolution, this reflects and it affirms our values of tolerance and inclusion and respect and our commitment to creating safe and welcoming schools for all students,” Steiner said. “I, like many others, felt very unsettled in the last year and certainly after the election and … I want to recognize how much we do in our schools to promote tolerance inclusion and respect, but we have to continue we need to redouble our efforts.”
While support for a resolution protecting immigrant students was unanimous among all Board members and community members present, some felt that the resolution should be expanded to include protection for targeted religions, races, sexual orientations and genders. However, some Board members thought that addressing too many groups might detract from the focus of the resolution.
“I feel like it’s important to focus on immigration status as the threat that we are dealing with here,” Board member Ken Dauber said. “Unfortunately, Trump has issued a wide variety of threats to a wide variety of people, and we are going to have to take a wide variety of actions to resist that. This [resolution] is one of them, but it’s not all of them, so I think it’s useful to keep it focused.”
Also questioned was the use of the word sanctuary in the resolution. Dauber wondered if describing Palo Alto schools as sanctuaries are beyond the ability of the District.
“I’m afraid of over-promising because the unfortunate fact is that we can be non-cooperative with the federal government to the extent permitted by law,” Dauber said. “We cannot, unfortunately, guarantee the safety of students in our schools, so I don’t want to create in people a false impression of what’s possible.”
The Board plans to take action to approve this resolution at their next meeting on Jan. 10.