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New guide outlines how to protect undocumented students and parents in California’s public charter schools

Esmeralda Fabián Romero | June 22, 2017

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Immigrant students marching on May Day rally for immigrant rights last year in Los Angeles.

A new guide on how to protect undocumented parents and students in California’s public charter schools was released Thursday to address an increase in student anxiety and absences and a decline in parent participation in school activities in the wake of federal immigration policy changes.

The 21-page guide called “Protecting Undocumented and Vulnerable Students” was created by Stanford Law School and the California Charter Schools Association in response to CCSA schools seeking guidance.

The document provides schools with information about their legal obligations in providing education to undocumented students and actions that schools can take to fully protect the rights of these students and their families. And for undocumented immigrant families, it provides a guide to creating a school preparedness plan.

The plan for schools to follow includes:

  • Policies to facilitate enrollment of undocumented children and children living with caretakers who might be undocumented
  • Practices to ensure proper compliance with federal privacy laws to protect all students’ sensitive data
  • Policies for regulating law enforcement access to students at schools
  • Practices that schools can adopt to help parents and students in the event that a caretaker is arrested, detained, or otherwise unavailable

The plan for families includes guidance on how to:

  • Identify the child’s emergency caregivers
  • Define how a caregiver will financially support the child
  • Legally appoint a caregiver
  • Gather important documents for children’s caretakers
  • Locate detained parents

In California, at least 750,000 children live with a parent who is undocumented, including 250,000 children who are undocumented themselves.

“All Californians want their schools to be safe and welcoming for children and their families — these guidelines will help administrators, teachers, and families create just such a learning environment,” William Koski, professor of clinical education at the Stanford Law and Policy Lab, said in a news release.

“The recommended policies and practices reflect sound educational policies that can benefit every child in California, not only undocumented students,” said Michael Wald, a Stanford law professor and also one of the creators of the guide.

In LA Unified, 1 in 4 students may be undocumented or have a parent who is undocumented. LA Unified has declared that all its schools are “safe havens” for students and their families.

“We hope that the information that (the new guide) provides will address the concerns that many public school leaders have in providing services to undocumented children and their parents so that they may continue to receive the highest quality education,” said Ricardo Soto, senior vice president of legal advocacy and general counsel for CCSA.

According to CCSA, even though the guide was intended to support its charter school members to address those issues, it can also be a resource for school leaders of any public school in California and be made available for parents.

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