LOS ANGELES – By unanimous vote (7-0), the Los Angeles Unified School Board today passed a strong resolution to protect immigrant students and their families, as urged by California Schools Are Sanctuaries, a growing coalition of community groups and schools focused on ensuring these policies are adopted and implemented in every district.
“This resolution has clear steps our schools can take to bring safety to our children and we commend the board for passing it today,” said Zenzontl Kuauhtzin, Director of Parent Engagement for Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC) Schools and a founding member of the coalition. “Now more than ever, we are committed to protecting our immigrant students and families, especially in light of what happened to one of our parents a few months ago.”
On February 28, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, a father of four, was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents while dropping off one of his daughters at Academia Avance Charter School in the Highland Park neighborhood. Avelica-Gonzalez, who is still in federal custody, has lived in the U.S. for more than 25 years.
The resolution passed today directs LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King to develop a plan within 90 days that will train teachers, administrators and other staff on how to quickly respond to ICE agents. The new resolution affirms that agents will not be allowed to enter school campuses unless the request has been cleared by the superintendent and district lawyers.
It will coordinate resources to school sites and ensure school personnel have a deep understanding of what they can do to support students and families. A rapid response network will also be created to assist students and family members in the event they are detained by immigration agents.
After the arrest of Avelica-Gonzalez, school leaders came together to discuss how best to protect and safeguard all immigrant students in the district. Other schools, community and immigrant rights organizations soon joined in the effort, including the ACLU of Southern California and the California Charter Schools Association.
“I am happy this resolution got passed because I don’t want what happened to me and my family, to happen to any of my friends,” said the daughter of Avelica-Gonzalez, Fatima Avelica, 13, a student at Academia Avance Charter School. “My birthday is Sunday, and this will be the first time my father will not be there to give me my blessing like he usually does, and give me a hug or cook for me, and celebrate with me and my siblings.”
The resolution, co-sponsored by Board Members Monica Garcia and Ref Rodriguez, and backed by the diverse coalition, is largely based on a set of model policies developed by the ACLU. The coalition says next steps include opportunities to encourage other schooldistricts to work with stakeholders and adopt similar policies based on LAUSD's policy and ACLU's model policies.
"Every student in California deserves an equal and equitable educational opportunity. This right applies to students of all races, ethnicities, religions, and immigration status, said Sylvia Torres-Guillén, ACLU of California’s director of education equity. “Thank you to board members Zimmer, Garcia and Rodriguez for their leadership in the ‘safe zones’ resolutions to keep students and families safe from immigration enforcement in schools.”
California Schools Are Sanctuaries is a broad-based coalition comprised of community-based organizations, public school leaders from traditional and charter schools, and civil rights and immigration advocates fighting to ensure the safety and security of immigrant students.