Antioch School Board to draft own “safe schools” resolution for a vote at future meeting

Fear of losing federal funds expressed

By Allen Payton

During their meeting on Wednesday, April 26 the Antioch School Board Trustees heard from 15 members of the public in standing room only audience, on a resolution to create a “Safe Haven School District”. (See below) Each of the trustees offered their input and suggested changes to the resolution, and two wanted to remove any references that might affect the district receiving federal funds.

The resolution was placed on the agenda by Antioch Superintendent Stephanie Anello and Board Vice President Debra Vinson for discussion purposes only, in response to a request by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson that all school districts in the state do the same, following the election of President Donald Trump.

The main focus of the resolution was about sending a message to students and/or parents who are in the country illegally, that they have a right to attend school and the district has the legal responsibility to provide them an education. But, it also contains a variety of other controversial issues, such as gender identity.

While some of those who spoke tried to downplay the political aspect of the resolution, others referred to the new president in their comments, and Trustee Diane Gibson-Gray clearly stated, “This is a political issue.”

The first to speak was Iris Archuleta, who with her husband Keith, were at the meeting on a different matter, to donate their Youth Intervention Network program to the district, to have it integrated into the district’s current programs.

“I so appreciate this resolution,” she said. “Just looking at the first ‘whereas.’ This district supports equity and inclusion. Many of us support and love you for taking this position. I very, very much support your efforts.”

Antioch Education Association President Robert Strickler asked “the board to support the resolution.”

Many speakers and members of the audience wore purple shirts as part of the First 5 Contra Costa East County Regional Group.

Antioch resident Concepcion James, whose daughter graduated from Deer Valley High and works as the County Health Equity Manager, said “there is a health impact when children and their parents feel marginalized.”

Antioch resident Paul Ramirez, who said he is “Chair of the Latino Advocacy Group,” which “sponsored the last Dreamer Conference” spoke in support of the resolution and “students going to school worried about their parents’ well-being.”

“When people read in the history books about this guy with orange hair,” he said referring to Trump, “they’re going to ask, ‘what did grandpa do?’”

Another speaker wanted the trustees to “make sure all students are safe and able to learn.”

Gloria Ochoa of the East County Regional Group sponsored by First 5 Contra Costa said, “this letter is wonderful.”

“Immigrant students are being bullied by other students, because they came from other countries,” she claimed.

Another speaker offering an example of bullying, told the Board, “Kids were saying ‘build the wall, built it higher’ to other students who are mainly Hispanic.”

Another speaker reiterated what Ramirez referred to, saying “Some students are afraid to come to school because they might be separated from their parents at any time.”

Still another speaker shared her thoughts, stating “this is a shame that we haven’t passed this. There are a lot of immigrants in this district. We need a declaration from the Board that the children will be safe from I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).”

It was clear some speakers hadn’t read the resolution before the Board for discussion.

Deborah Pope, with the East County Regional Group and worked with disadvantaged children, suggested clauses that were already included in the proposed resolution.

Cheryl Sing, of the East Contra Costa Council for Community Leaders said, “Please make schools safe havens for immigrant students.”

She also suggested having block parents with big signs in their house windows “so students know where to go.”

Sharon Weaver, a teacher at Turner Elementary said, “It will be a smile, kindness passing this for our families.”

Julie Young was only one of two speakers against the resolution.

“I was very disturbed to see this on the agenda,” she stated. “Superintendent Torlakson sent a letter to all 10,500 school districts shortly after the election. Only 110 have complied.” (Editor’s Note: The correct number of school districts in the state is 1,050).

“You have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution,” Young continued. “If you sign this you will be breaking the law, U.S. Code 1324, harboring illegals. What are we teaching the children? What message does that send?”

“This resolution does nothing, legally,” she added. “We already have the protections for the children.”

Former Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando spoke next, refuting part of Young’s statement. “There is a lot of misunderstanding and hysteria with our citizens,” he said. “This resolution is following the law. All this is doing by approving it is following the law.”

Another speaker against the resolution disagreed with Cantando, saying “we’re a nation of laws. To me that’s in violation of the Constitution.”

“This is pure politics,” he continued. “What really gets me is that some people who support this opposed charter schools who will serve the same students. It came out after the election.”

“I will campaign against anybody who votes for this,” he concluded.

Teacher Ken Kent said “we stand with you” but the resolution didn’t really do much. He requested the Board “add a clause of a plan to educate.” He also spoke of students who shared with him their fears.

Anamarie Avila-Farias, former Martinez Vice Mayor and unsuccessful candidate for District 5 Supervisor in last year’s election, said “it’s a moral issue” and supported moving the resolution forward.

Willie Mims asked the board to support the resolution, as well, saying “we have a group of folks concerned about this issue,” referred to Trump and compared the issue to slavery being legal.

“Good people stood up to unjust laws,” he said and quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and St. Augustine to support his point.

Paul Seger, an Oakley resident, retired coach and teacher from “Nor Cal, Humboldt area” said the “East County Board was first to pass a ‘Safe Haven. It made the community so much easier to be around.”

“We need to change the laws and it takes so long,” he continued, then encouraged the board to support the resolution.

The Board members then had their opportunity to speak on the matter.

Gary Hack said, “other than one or two people, I’d say ‘ditto.’ Everybody who comes through the door we educate…”

Vinson said, “I’m happy that this resolution is on here. I will absolutely support the resolution.” But she wanted to make some additions to it and asked Anello if the District was asking for students to identify their citizenship during enrollment.

Anello responded, “on our previous enrollment forms  for federal funding we asked citizenship status. We took that off because it only affected 12 students.”

Gibson-Gray asked “has that changed?”

Anello responded, “this was changed, recently.”

Gibson-Gray then asked “is there anything in this that we’re not doing? As a Board Member I have to protect federal funding. I’m all about the money.”

“If we change the language to ‘a safe educational environment’ I’m all for it,” she added.

Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White, who is also a Parent Education Teacher said she had “experienced it first hand, the concerns of the teen mothers and their children who are Latino.”

She also suggested adding some clauses to the resolution.

Board President Walter Ruehlig said, “I would have to agree with Trustee Gray about the language of this.”

“My parents were immigrants. My father jumped ship to come to America,” he continued. “I don’t have to apologize for my fervor for human rights.”

“The language of this is quite controversial,” Ruehlig stated. “There’s probably more risk than reward. This won’t change the law. I think this is misleading. I’m not against it. I, too agree it’s quite political.”

Vinson suggested the trustees “wordsmith this and bring it back May 24th.”

Gibson-Gray responded, “I want a resolution that…reaffirms what we’re already doing. I don’t want at some point President Trump saying ‘you’re not getting money.’”

Ruehlig then asked if the district requires a warrant for I.C.E. officers to be on campus and search student records.

Anello said “no…nor do we know (a student’s citizenship status), except for the 12.”

Ruehlig than asked her if she knew of “any incidents where I.C.E.” was on an Antioch school campus.

“I’m not aware of any, personally,” Anello responded. “That doesn’t necessarily minimize the fear.”

Gibson-Gray reiterated here earlier concern, “I do want to keep the money” to which Vinson responded, “I, too want to keep the money.”

Gibson-Gray then said she was “content to be legally within the law.”

“The resolution before you, tonight is within the law,” Anello assured her.

Ruehlig offered an addition he wanted to the resolution, to “included what our history has been. This gives the impression we have been violating people’s rights.”

Hack then said he felt “the length of it is appropriate.”

The Board members agreed to each email Anello with their additional suggestions for the resolution and have her present two options, one with the term Safe Haven and one without, and to then have it on a future meeting agenda for a vote.

Following is the proposed resolution discussed by the public and Board:

Antioch Unified School District

RESOLUTION NO. 2016-17-30

IN SUPPORT OF THE RIGHTS OF ALL STUDENTS –A SAFE HAVEN RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America recognizes every    individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;

WHEREAS, Education has played a critical role in furthering tolerance and strengthening our society;

WHEREAS, The United States Supreme Court in 1982 ruled in Plyer v. Doe that public schools were prohibited from denying students access to Elementary and Secondary Public Education based on their immigrations status, citing that children have little control over their immigration status, the lifelong harm it would inflict on the child and society itself, and constitutional equal protection rights;

WHEREAS, The Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees is committed to educating all students in a safe and welcoming environment;

WHEREAS, The Antioch Unified School District is committed to preventing and ending acts of discrimination or bullying based on a student’s immigration status, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetics or disability

WHEREAS, The Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees believes that celebrating the diversity that exists in our District, elevating the uniqueness of each student, and embracing the cultural assets that both they and their parents bring to the District is vital to the success of all students;

WHEREAS, State and Federal laws prohibit educational agencies from disclosing personally identifiable student information to law enforcement without the consent of a parent or guardian, a signed court order or lawful subpoena;

WHEREAS, Concerns of potential raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office (ICE) have caused immigrants in the community to experience increased levels of concern about the presence of ICE in and around schools and the disruption that this presence may have on the learning environment for students and their families;

NOW BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that the Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees hereby directs the Superintendent to support the creation of a Safe Haven School District. This shall include:

  • Restricting, to the extent possible by law, the sharing of student and parent/guardian immigration status with federal agencies or officials;
  • Requiring all federal immigration agents seeking access to information or access to a school site have a warrant signed by a federal or state judge;
  • Continuing to promote and enhance a climate of inclusion;
  • Offering appropriate, focused professional development opportunities for staff;
  • Ensuring there are adequate supports and resources for students who may feel unsafe both on and off campus especially as it relates to discrimination or bullying predicated on immigration status, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetics or disability;
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4 Comments to “Antioch School Board to draft own “safe schools” resolution for a vote at future meeting”

  1. RJB says:

    Hey criminals need someone to babysit their kids. Gotta looooove Antioch.

  2. Dale says:

    Another reason why the ASD is loosing some many students to local Private Schools and maintains such high drop out rates.

  3. Loretta Sweatt says:

    They can get the Warrants, no problem. Listen to Diane-Gibson Grey and follow the money and keep the schools funded. If I were President at the time, I would have gotten a large limo motorcade, packed up the kids very nicely and driven to Mexico’s Capital and said, “Excuse Me, somebody forgot to pick up their children after school so I gave them a ride home”

  4. Fernando Navarro says:

    As a latino, an AUSD dad and a former AUSD trustee. I am deeply offended that we as a district us minorities, Once again, as a hostage shield to lob political bombs at The President Donald Trump. The unwarranted fear mongering, the purposeful lawlessness. Not to mention the out and out the public corruption of wanting to “have your cake and eat it too!”

    You are either lawful or LAWLESS!
    These are the wrong messages and examples to give our young people that we are entrusted to mold and educate!

    wordsmithing?!? really? man up. either be P.C. and take the consequences of your collective actions. or grow up and lead by CORRECT example!

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