State Schools Chief Urges “Safe Haven” Designation for 10,500 Public Schools

Tom Torlakson. - Courtesy photo
Tom Torlakson. – Courtesy photo


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson released a letter encouraging all California public schools to be declared “safe havens” for students and their parents and to remind families about existing laws that protect students’ records from questions about immigration status.

“Unfortunately, since the presidential election, reports of bullying, harassment, and intimidation of K-12 students based on immigration status, religious, or ethnic identification are on the rise,” Torlakson said in the letter distributed to county and school district superintendents, charter school administrators, and principals.

“As State Superintendent of Public Instruction, safety is my top priority. And my strongest commitment to you, your students, and their families is that schools remain safe places to learn. California serves more than 6.2 million K-12 grade students with the most diverse population in the nation.”

The letter encourages all parents and guardians to fully participate in their school communities. Engaged parents play a key role in helping students succeed on their way to 21st century careers and college, Torlakson said.

The California Department of Education (CDE) will continue to provide local educational agencies (LEAs) with guidelines about existing laws that protect student records, including the 1984 Plyler v. Doe U.S. Supreme Court decision that requires schools to enroll all eligible children regardless of immigration status.

Schools must verify a student’s age and residency, but they have extensive flexibility in what documents are used and do not need to use pertaining to immigration status. No records can be released to law enforcement without a parent’s written permission, a court order, or subpoena. Schools should not collect or maintain any documents pertaining to immigration status, Torlakson said.

Some California school districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District and Sacramento City Unified School District, have declared themselves safe havens and let their communities know they will maintain a welcoming environment for all students and parents.

The full letter is available on the California Department of Education (CDE) Public Schools Remain Safe Havens web page.


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