Responsive Schools in a Time of Uncertainty

Responsive Schools in a Time of Uncertainty

For immigrant families

A year ago, Americans were preparing for the inauguration of Donald Trump. Teachers and students at Gateway were having lively discussions in and outside of the classroom about what Trump’s presidency would mean for all of us.  Overwhelmingly, there were strong feelings of anger, disappointment, and fear.

As teachers and staff talked more, a theme in these discussions emerged around immigration.  Students were scared. Currently nearly 10% of our students are immigrants and many more are from from immigrant families. Many are worried about being undocumented or having undocumented family members. 

Politics aside, in that moment, we knew that Gateway had to uphold our values of inclusion and we needed to be responsive to ensure that our students felt safe and supported. We asked ourselves, “How do we support our immigrant students and their families?”

In 2017, this work and support came in a number of forms.  We had some small and large successes:

  1. Organized a community forum. We invited lawyers to educate our campus community about the rights of immigrants and ways to support immigrant families. We connected our families with lawyers to help with their individual cases, if needed. 
  2. Conducted teacher professional development and shared resources. Staff and faculty attended conferences and trainings around sanctuary schools and immigrant rights. We also organized trainings during our weekly professional development. In turn, faculty and staff implemented recommendations made during these trainings. They created a shared drive of resources. They did everything from putting up sanctuary school art work throughout the school to incorporating current immigration issues into their curriculum.
  3. Communicated our commitment and support of immigrant families. School leadership passed a Safe Schools Resolution and communicated to families that our school stood by immigrant families and were committed to providing a safe school. They sent this message through letters, emails, and social media posts. 
  4. Supported student activism. Teachers continued to support students who were interested in taking action. This work is inside their classrooms, but also in student-led organization. 

 A year has passed. In 2017, it’s been estimated that Trump has deported 25% more immigrants than previous years.  The arrests and criminalization of immigrants continues. Most recently, the status of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients, those undocumented young people who benefited  from temporary amnesty under Obama, has been in the national spotlight as there have been political talks of ending the program. This past month Trump has announced plans to end provisional residency permits for over 200,000 El Salvadorian immigrants in the United States. They would have to face possible deportation.

As a school community, we have to stay alert. We know that in order for our students to feel safe enough to learn, we need to care about their world outside of the classroom. We continue to hold the uncertainty of our families in our work. There is no formula to being a responsive classroom, but it requires thoughtful teachers, administrators, students, parents and staff learning and creating as we go.

Here are some resources shared among educators to support immigrant families in this time:

  • Immigrant Legal Resource Center – ILRC provides legal trainings, educational materials and advocacy to advance immigrant rights.
  • Teachers4Social Justice – Teachers for Social Justice is a grassroots non-profit teacher support and development organization that shares resources, holds conferences, etc.
  • Arab Resource & Organizing Center – Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) is a grassroots organization working empower and organize their community.  They provide resources, hold conferences, run youth programming, etc. 
  • Educators for Fair Consideration - An organization that provides resources and support for undocumented young people to pursue education, careers and a brighter future. 

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