Recent federal immigration policy announcements have caused great confusion and fear among many members of the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) community including students, family members, and educators. As a pillar of the community, it behooves FCPS to combat the fear and unease by providing consistent, accessible, fact-based information.
The Virginia Department of Education memo (#059-17) issued March 1, 2017, clearly outlined the division’s responsibilities in regards to students and immigration. Interim Superintendent Steve Lockard issued a resource of existing policies for schools’ reference as well as broad guidance on protecting students’ rights on February 3, 2017. Has this information been made available to FCPS faculty, students, and their families in a usable and understandable way? Has the information been disseminated consistently throughout ALL schools?
I am urging that the following facts (excerpted from Memo #059-17 and Superintendent Lockard’s issuance) be widely shared with all students, parents, and faculty on the FCPS website and take home letters, translated if needed:
- Providing educational opportunities to students regardless of immigration status does not violate the law or executive actions.
- Schools have a legal responsibility to protect the privacy of student education records pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The recent executive orders and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidance memorandums relating to immigration and deportation do not alter these legal obligations in any way. Immigration authorities must present a subpoena or court order before a school may release any student education records.
- Should an FCPS school be approached by immigration authorities, they must present a valid warrant before entering school grounds and that FCPS administrators will ensure that immigration officials understand school policies while on school grounds.
In addition, I ask that FCPS provide contact information for organizations that provide immigration information and support for parents and families via the FCPS website and translated letters to take home. Per Memo #059-17, providing general information to families about their legal rights and referrals to seek legal assistance does not violate the law or executive actions. Furthermore, I urge FCPS to consider hosting “Know Your Rights” or family preparedness workshops at FCPS facilities, where families in need of such information will feel comfortable and safe obtaining it. There are many local organizations that would be happy to work with FCPS to schedule such workshops.
According to the Student Rights & Responsibilities Guide, Interim Superintendent Lockard’s memo, and the recently issued Fairfax County Statement on Diversity and Inclusion (which FCPS has voted to formally support), FCPS is committed to maintaining a safe, inclusive and welcoming learning environment for all children in our public school system and Fairfax County Public Schools values the richly diverse backgrounds of our students and families. It’s time to prove that.