Hot Sheet

Is giving comfort to children of immigration too political for school?

Author: Dan Njegomir - March 6, 2017 - Updated: June 6, 2017


The Colorado Springs Gazette’s education writer, Debbie Kelley, reports today on some pushback at efforts by Colorado public schools to reach out and reassure immigrant households.

Colorado media have been reporting on concerns among students from undocumented immigrant families that they or their family members could in some cases be deported under the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown. Media accounts have noted, as well, how faculty and administration in school districts around the state have sought to channel students’ concerns and allay fears.

Just last week, Chalkbeat Colorado reported on a novel effort in one Denver middle school class to let students express themselves directly to the president via Twitter. As we observed in blogging on the story, it likely would warm the hearts of many — but probably also put off others who might feel the teachers involved were openly taking sides in what is also a political debate.

As Kelley’s story in The Gazette points out, there does indeed seem to be something of a backlash to the backlash, at least, in one of the Colorado Springs area’s most diverse school districts, Harrison District 2, on the city’s south side:

“The country’s changing from maybe not enforcing our immigration law to a pretty vigorous enforcement, and I think it’s best public school districts remain quiet and see how things work out,” said Ryan Thompson, a parent of a student in Harrison School District 2.

School officials contend they aren’t playing politics, Kelley reports:

On Nov. 14, Harrison School District 2 sent home a letter with its 11,800 students from Superintendent Andre Spencer, who said, “Issues surrounding immigration, civil rights, human rights and racial inequalities resonate strongly within our diverse student population.” The letter provided a list of local resources.

A second, similar letter went out to D-2 parents last month, beginning with the statement, “The purpose of this letter is humanitarian, not political.”

…Harrison D-2 board member Eileen Gonzalez said the letter from Spencer speaks for itself.

“His first concern is for the scholars he’s responsible for,” she said. “It is not a political statement of any kind.”

Yet, Thompson isn’t persuaded::

“People are raising an eyebrow about this,” he said.

…”It’s a reasonable expectation that the school district should report any known crime to law enforcement, and this seems to be saying they’re shielding immigration status.”

…Thompson said he’s concerned that immigrants violating U.S. laws are being allowed into schools and working as volunteers, for example.

“Are we inviting them into our buildings and just ignoring the fact that they are known criminals? A school district is not going to do that with any other criminals,” he said. “That can be worrisome. Some are very good people, and some we just don’t know.”

We’re accustomed by now to watching politicians duke it out on this subject, using it — surprise! — as a political football. It’s more enlightening to see the parents themselves address the issue from both sides.

Kelley’s full story is worth reading; here’s that link again.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is a blogger and opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.

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