School board tackles issue of ‘safe haven’ schools

Posted on February 22, 2017 by Sonoma Valley Sun

By Anna Pier | Sonoma Valley Sun — Trustees of Sonoma Valley Unified School District are responding to public pressure as well as a request from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to adopt a ‘safe haven’ policy in our local schools. At a special meeting on February 28 the full board will consider an action item which concerned parties have been bringing to District’s attention since the election of Donald Trump supposed enforcement of his campaign promises to deport the undocumented.

Claudia Robbins of “It Won’t Happen Here” (IWHH) introduced publicly on February 14 at the regular school board meeting, a request that the SVUSD adopt a comprehensive safe haven policy. IWHH is a grass roots countywide movement that is committed to protecting Constitutional guarantees for all. SVUSD Board President Dan Gustafson stated that last month California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson had announced his support for ‘safe haven’ policies in the schools. Gustafson said he was aware that locally district superintendent Louann Carlomagno and others were “working on our own draft”, but he was not involved.

Robbins expects to receive back from the District, prior to the special session, the draft resolution to which IWHH has submitted specific amendments. These amendments were drafted after consultation with immigration attorneys from Santa Rosa, San Francisco and UC Davis.

In particular, on behalf of Valley parents who are in a vulnerable position, Robbins has asked the board to direct the Superintendent to develop a plan for children who may be left unattended at school because a parent has been detained or deported. Another provision IWHH is requesting is that Know Your Rights information be distributed to all families and all school employees. Additionally, the activist group asks the board to direct all the sites to offer activities to promote tolerance and counter hate, bias, and discrimination.

During public comment at the February 14 board meeting, the Community Meeting Room was overflowing with more than fifty community members, including teachers, parents and students, who urged the trustees to adopt a comprehensive safe haven policy. Among them, Sonoma Valley high school student María Castillo read an eloquent appeal to “Put Yourself In my Shoes”. She called on the trustees and superintendent to see the fear in the faces of the many students whose parents are vulnerable.

Robbins, speaking to the Sun this week, emphasized the importance of educating everyone who works with our children in the schools, including volunteers and mentors, about the rights anyone in this country enjoys. Under the Fifth Amendment, all individuals are protected from a request to speak to or hand over documents to someone who does not have a warrant in their name. Schools have traditionally been protected from the presence of immigration agents.

Superintendent Louann Carlomagno acknowledged she is very aware how important it is that everyone involved have a clear understanding of the rights of anyone in this country. She told the Sun “all staff members have received information about the rights of parents, students and staff.” The superintendent also noted that the District is working with La Luz and other community partners to host “Know Your Rights” workshops.

Gustafson explained that action on a safe haven resolution was postponed to a special session for several reasons. One was that trustee Sal Chavez was not able to attend the regular February 14 meeting. Another was that Gustafson had “unanswered questions” which he believed other trustees shared. He elaborated saying “My main concern, and I expressed this at the last board meeting, is that while I would like our students and families to feel safer, the last thing I want to do is mislead them. I want to make sure we can take actions so that they will actually be safer. And that process is still underway.”

La Luz is offering parents the opportunity to create a notarized document that provides, in the event they are detained or deported, for temporary guardianship for their children. On Thursday the 23 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. parents can bring government identification and birth certificates for their children, and have a temporary guardianship paper notarized. Notary fee is $15 per signature.

The trustees will meet to act on a safe haven resolution at the special session at Altimira Middle School at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, February 28.



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