Fresno Unified Board Approves Safe Place Designation

Friday, March 31, 2017

Fresno Unified School District reiterated its commitment to serving all students, regardless of their immigration status, approving a "Safe Place School District" resolution on a unanimous vote at the March 8 board meeting.

"This designation goes beyond saying school sites are safe places where students receive both academic and social-emotional supports -- that has always been our practice," said interim superintendent Bob Nelson.

"This designation also calls for an implementation plan that we will provide our students and families with appropriate supports and reassurances for their safety specific to concerns around immigration."

The board received input from the community, stakeholders, students and parents before approving the resolution.

The designation affirms the district's current policies, practices, and procedures, including:

- All students have a right to a public education irrespective of immigration status

- Promotes tolerance and acceptance over hate speech

- Affirms the board of education's commitment to the district's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy 0411

- Sustains district policy that the district does not request, obtain or maintain records related to immigration status

- Ensures school resource officers and school neighborhood resource officers will adhere to the City of Fresno policy of not participating in immigration enforcement

- Honors existing Immigration Customs Enforcement policy that identifies school facilities as "sensitive" locations, exempt from immigration enforcement

The resolution "declares that every Fresno Unified School District site is a safe place for its students and families to seek help, assistance and information if faced with fear and anxiety about any safety concern, including enforcement of immigration laws."

It notes the U.S. Supreme Court 1982 ruling in Plyler v. Doe that prohibits public schools from denying students access to elementary and secondary education based on their immigration status.

With the resolution, Fresno Unified joined more than 25 California school districts, counties and institutions of higher education adopting policies that restrict entanglement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The resolution notes that ICE activities in and around schools and other district facilities would be a "severe disruption to the learning environment and educational setting for students." It also notes that students' ability to achieve is undermined by the removal of family members during ICE activities and could leave students without anyone to care for them.

As a "Safe Place School District," Fresno Unified will not facilitate or participate in immigration enforcement activities, to the fullest extent allowed by law; ICE agents will not be allowed to enter schools or district properties without complying with requirements applicable to other state and local law enforcement authorities; and won't release a student to ICE without consent of parents unless the district is required by law to do so.

The "Safe Place" designation also means that Fresno Unified will partner with community organizations that provide resources for families facing deportation.

The resolution highlights Fresno Unified's diversity, noting that 63 languages are spoken in district schools, including Spanish, Hmong, Armenian, Korean, Tagalog, Cantonese, Arabic, Vietnamese and Russian.

"In publically reaffirming our commitment to educating all students, we hope to reassure our families that Fresno Unified schools are a safe place for students to learn, pursue their dreams, and prepare for the best possible future once they leave our schools," Nelson said.