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LA charter schools commit to students’ safety, join fight against Trump’s threat to sanctuaries

Mike Szymanski | March 29, 2017

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Protesters gather downtown LA after ICE agents picked up a father outside a school. The February incident led to LA charter groups declaring their commitment to students’ safety.

A coalition of Los Angeles charter schools announced Tuesday that they plan to join in the legal challenge against President Trump’s executive order to withhold federal money from “sanctuary jurisdictions” including LA Unified.

They also reported that fewer seniors in their high schools are applying to college this year because of fears of their information being used against their families.

Angered by immigration agents’ detention of a father as he dropped off his daughter at an LA charter school last month, the representatives of the Los Angeles Advocacy Council presented their letter at a Committee of the Whole school board meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“We are profoundly disturbed by the recent escalation of actions aimed squarely at the communities we serve,” read Marcia Aaron, KIPP LA Schools’ executive director, from their letter to the board. “Each day parents from all walks of life send their children to our campuses, entrusting us with their safety and their learning.”

The 17 charter management organizations represent 94 schools and more than 42,000 students in the Los Angeles area. Aaron presented the letter with Allison Bajracharya, Chief Strategy and Support Services Officer for Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, and read the letter to the three board members in attendance and Superintendent Michelle King.

“We are outraged when students are robbed of the safe and nurturing environments on which they have come to rely and that every child needs in order to succeed,” Aaron said.

The school board voted shortly after Trump’s election to declare the school district a sanctuary for all students and their families and to fight deportations.

After the committee meeting, school board President Steve Zimmer said, “No one should underestimate the dislike that Trump has for the Los Angeles school district. His threats to stop federal aid very much affect us, and we have to fight it.”

Zimmer said he will be heading to Sacramento this week to lobby for more funding for the school district.

The charter representatives spoke about their concern regarding Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents picking up Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez as he was dropping off his 12-year-old daughter at Academia Avance Charter School in Highland Park.

That incident has “provoked fear and turmoil among thousands of children and families in communities across the city,” the letter states. “This instability has immediate and significant consequences on the education process. It interferes with our teachers’ ability to educate students; it discourages some students from even attending school; and it discourages high school seniors from applying for federal financial aid because they fear their personal information might be used to punish their family members. Already, we’ve found that fewer of our students will be applying to and enrolling in college this year.”

The charter organizations agreed to join an amicus brief to support the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging Trump’s executive order to withhold federal funds from any state or local governments identified as “sanctuary jurisdictions.”

The letter ends with, “We stand with our students and will do everything within our power to protect them from trauma. The path to and from school must be kept sacred.”

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