by Esmeralda Fabián Romero, T74
The nation’s second-largest school district will start a new school year next week “standing with immigrant families,” which it signaled Tuesday with a new website and guides that pull together resources for immigrant students and their families.
Superintendent Michelle King used her annual “State of the District” address Tuesday to unveil the “We Are One L.A. Unified” campaign, which was created over the summer with the input of a group of students who have recently immigrated to Los Angeles.
“Let’s make clear that we stand together with immigrant students and families as one LA Unified family,” King said in her address to 1,500 principals and administrators gathered Tuesday at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, a predominantly Latino-immigrant community. “This campaign is in support of those students who feel marginalized. We have launched a website with a toolkit and resource guide that provides resources for them.”
The district will welcome all students next week with an image of the Statue of Liberty on large banners that will be placed in every school’s main entrance and will also be in school buses across the district, said Antonio Plascencia, director of civic engagement in the superintendent’s office and spokesman for the campaign.
“We want to show that LA Unified is a safe zone for our immigrant families,” he said.
“This is a continuation of a series of resolutions passed by the LAUSD school board, with a very strong focus on newcomer students. We’re finding that many of our schools midway through the school year are enrolling a growing number of newcomer students, so Dr. King decided that the resolutions were a good pathway to build a strong program for immigrant families,” Plascencia said.
The 45-page resource guide was created by LA Unified officials, the multilingual department, human services, the school police, and the group of new immigrant students. Other organizations were also involved, including the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC), CHIRLA, and CARECEN.
“It’s beautiful. It’s something that the students helped to create, and I celebrate that,” said board member Mónica García. “We are a district that is proud to serve the immigrant community. This is not new, that’s just ongoing [support].”
Plascencia said various schools will be hosting community forums for district officials to meet with students and families throughout the school year. He also stressed the importance of making sure immigrant families do not fear filling out school paperwork and soliciting services.
“We need to make sure that families are filling out their meal applications, their income eligibility forms, their emergency cards, because we want them to understand that those are district documents and that information is protected under federal laws,” he said. “Their information is secure with us.”
Board president Ref Rodriguez said that the “We Are One L.A. Unified” campaign is “a commitment to ensuring Los Angeles schools be safe places for students and their families threatened by immigration enforcement.”
Advocates for Los Angeles’s immigrant communities reacted favorably to the initiative.
“We applaud the LAUSD’s efforts to educate and guide families in these moments of uncertainty and immigration crackdown by the Trump Administration. The pledge it makes to all students is to respect them as full human beings and to work hard to provide equitable access to an excellent education,” Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a CHIRLA spokesman, said in a statement. “We could not have expected any less of one of the largest and most diverse school districts in the nation. It’s a resource all families should read.”
The campaign’s website, posted Tuesday morning, links to a guide for families and another for schools, addressed to “staff, educators and principals.” Both include much of the same information, including educational rights for students and their families, how to create a family preparedness plan, and how to respond when families are detained. There is also a “red card,” in English and Spanish, stating constitutional rights that family members can present to federal authorities if they are detained.
The campaign’s site and both sets of guides are in English. By the time school starts next week, Spanish versions will also be posted, a district spokeswoman said.
Here are some of the resources available:
- A list of the six centers for education and immigration resources, located in each of the local districts. These are centers where district staff can direct families to services such as enrollment, vaccinations, or counseling.
- Addresses and phone numbers of community organizations that can provide support to immigrants, including legal services.
- Health services available within the district and in the city that are available to anyone regardless of immigration status.
- Information for undocumented students regarding DACA and AB 540, a state law that allows undocumented students to pay in-state fees at public community colleges and universities.
In LA Unified, which serves 665,000 K-12 students, roughly 1 in 4 students is an undocumented immigrant or has a parent who is undocumented.
There are also tips for how to enroll in school and how to instill good attendance habits, and information on different school options within LA Unified, special education resources, graduation requirements, college requirements, and scholarship resources.
New board member Nick Melvoin told LA School Report on Tuesday that if there’s one thing all school board members agree on, it’s protecting immigrant students.
“We need to continue advocating [for them]. I know board president Rodriguez will go in the near term to D.C., so I’m planning to go with him not only to ask for more funding but also to advocate for our immigrant families,” Melvoin said.