Nevada Joint Union High School District Board affirms support for undocumented students
November 9, 2017
A resolution confirming the school district's support for undocumented students prompted a sometimes-heated debate Wednesday.
But in the end, the board of trustees for the Nevada Joint Union High School District passed the resolution — which has been proposed by student trustee Morgan Margulies — on a unanimous vote.
The resolution, titled "Providing All Children Equal Access to Education, Regardless of Immigration Status," was drafted by the California School Board Association and has already been passed by 122 school districts across California, Margulies told the board.
This would reassert the district's commitment to undocumented students and provide a procedure and framework for interactions with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he said.
"It makes a statement," Margulies said, later calling the resolution a reaffirmation that the district believes everyone has a right to be educated.
Several of the trustees questioned the need for the resolution, since it echoes the district's current policy and appeared redundant.
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Trustee Jamie Reeves, however, said the district's procedures are out of date, arguing, "This is our responsibility."
Trustee Al Angulo, who serves as the clerk of the board, expressed concern with the fact that his name would be at the document approving the resolution and said he wanted to see a side-by-side comparison of the language of the resolution versus the district's current policy.
Board President Jim Drew noted the district already follows those procedures, calling the resolution "a political statement."
Angulo suggested that the district might just need to educate the public that it already follows anti-discrimination policies, leading Reeves to fire back, "Isn't that what this resolution does?"
Angulo then suggested tabling the discussion until the board could review the resolution side by side with district policy.
"What signal does that send to our community?" Reeves said. "We need to put personal ideology aside."
"I don't see a drawback to supporting the resolution," said Assistant Superintendent Dan Frisella, adding that it would send a message of validation to students and parents.
Superintendent Louise Johnson noted that the resolution would make it clear to site administration exactly how to handle situations on campus involving ICE.
A number of district staff testified in support of the "sanctuary" resolution, including Ghidotti Principal Noah Levinson and Nevada Union librarian Jill Sonnenberg.
Angulo, however, remained reluctant to affix his name to the document before he could ensure there were no hidden issues, leading Reeves to accuse him of "going into the weeds."
"I'll sign it," she told him, adding, "This represents the board."
Reeves also pointed out that Johnson had told the board there was no difference between the language of the resolution and district policy, adding," You're undermining our leadership."
NU Principal Kelly Rhoden told the board there is definitely fear on her campus, and said, "I'm deeply concerned there will be a bigger issue" if the resolution is not passed.
"This will send an extremely negative message," Rhoden said, adding it could be construed as condoning bullying of undocumented students.
"If we pass this, will there be no more fear?" trustee Pat Seeley said. "I'll say yes to that. … I don't think it's that simple."
Later, Seeley thanked those who spoke for their passion on the subject, saying their testimony changed her mind.
Trustee Linda Campbell agreed there is no panacea for fear, but reminded her fellow board members the resolution is not a change in policy, but simply a reiteration of its commitment to its students.
In the end, all six trustees voted to approve the resolution, drawing sustained applause from the audience.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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