Delaware School District Passes Safe Haven Policy for Immigrant Students

Christina School District in Wilmington became the first in Delaware to pass the policy.

A new policy passed makes the Christina School District the first in Delaware to provide a safe haven for its immigrant students.

In a 4-2 vote Tuesday night, the Christina School District Board of Education in Wilmington approved a new policy that outlines steps employees can take to safeguard K-12 students who are in the country illegally, in event of a request from an immigration agency.

The policy reads that its goal is to “provide enrolled students and their families the promise and reassurance that their right to a public education will be protected and free from disruption by enforcement efforts related to their undocumented status.”

The “safe haven” policy does not provide absolute protection for students, but puts measures in place to make sure agencies go through the proper channels and prevent students from being directly taken out of the classroom.

The policy clearly defines the role of Christina School District employees when faced with a request from ICE for student information.

In that situation, administrators are not required to accept or block the request, but rather declare that the request falls under the power of the superintendent.

Employees cannot resist if immigration agents enter the school, but have to work with the agencies to minimize any disruptions to the school and report the incident to the superintendent.

The new policy hits home for the school district. Staff in the district estimate there a few hundred students at the school are in the country illegally, while about 22 percent of the students are Hispanic or Latino.

Brett Tomashek, an ESL teacher at the district’s elementary school, said “when they are in my classroom and they are in my care…they are in the care of Thurgood Elementary. And it follows then that they are in the care of each and every one of you on the board."

It has been a three month process to get policy passed.

The initiative was first pushed in February by board member John Young. His first proposal of the policy was revised twice after some board members feared that allowing employees to resist federal agents would put them in harm’s way and subject them to arrests.

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