Imagine yourself at 6 years old, likely in first grade. You get on the bus or walk with your parents to school every day. When you walk into a classroom, you are learning to read, add and subtract and retell stories.
Now imagine you are the parent of that child. At home, you’re focused on reading with your kids and staying up to date on what’s happening in school—with their classmates, with their teachers and with other parents. You’re probably not talking to your kids about what might happen if you don’t come home one day.
But for far too many students and families their daily routines have been upended and replaced with conversations about what might happen if mom or dad is detained or deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This is the fear that our immigrant communities are living with every day: fear that parents will be detained, like Rómulo Avélica-González, while dropping off their children at school, that their siblings will be detained on their way to school or that they will have zero protections in this country should they ever need them.
I run Nuestra Voz in New Orleans, an organization working to build the capacity of parents to advocate for access to great schools for their children. In our communities, families are dealing with fear of all law enforcement, as well as anxiety and uncertainty.
The families with whom we work are keeping their kids home from school for fear of the ongoing ICE raids in New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, and Metairie. They also see children being bullied in school if those schools have not created cultures where our immigrant students feel safe and supported. In a system that is often touted as a model for what schools can do for kids, many of our most vulnerable students and families, particularly Latino families, are invisible.
We need to stand up for our families right now. When the threat of deportation prevents families from sending their children to school, we all feel the impact of loss of instructional time, lower student enrollment, and the need to deal (or not) with student trauma. But there are schools and systems who are showing up for our communities right now in many ways.
- Reassure families that under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) as well as local privacy acts, schools must have written permission from parents to release any information.
- Enact policies that affirm that you are on the side of the families and students and that students are safe within your schools.
- Create support groups for immigrant students or children of immigrants so they can address the trauma with which families are dealing.
- Hold Know Your Rights trainings for parents, teachers and counselors to combat the misinformation.
- Coordinate with local human services so you have a plan in place for what happens with children if they are separated from their parents.
Now is the time to show up for our students and their families. I hope you will join Nuestra Voz and many other systems and schools in speaking out for our most vulnerable students and their families.
During these uncertain times in our country, it’s pretty easy to see who is with you and who is not. Where are you?
For more resources to support immigrant students and families, please visit EdLoC.