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Members of the Salt Lake City School District board took a stand against the harassment and deportation of undocumented students on Tuesday, voting unanimously for a safe schools resolution pushed by an immigration advocacy group.
The resolution directs district employees to reject efforts by individuals or agencies to enforce federal immigration law on school grounds, "except in the rarest cases," and to avoid collecting or maintaining information on the immigration status of individual students.
"The District shall do everything in its lawful power to protect our students' confidential information and ensure that our students' learning environments are not disrupted by immigration enforcement actions," the resolution states.
Last month, the advocacy group Unidade Inmigrante encouraged board members to adopt a safe schools resolution as a pre-emptive gesture of support for undocumented students and their families.
Unidade Inmigrante spokeswoman Amy Dominguez said she was encouraged by the board's unanimous vote, and that administrators in neighboring school districts had expressed early interest in passing similar resolutions.
"We're really grateful to the board for being so receptive," Dominguez said. "We're hoping that with them taking the lead and getting this passed that other districts will do the same and know that they're not alone."
Salt Lake City School District's resolution states that families have expressed the fear that their children will be seized for deportation while at school.
It instructs school staff to direct all law enforcement agency requests to the district's policy director, and adds that unless exigent circumstances or a signed warrant dictate otherwise, law enforcement requests will be denied.
"[T]he Board is committed to ensuring that schools and District facilities are safe and welcoming places for all students and their families," it states.
Board president Heather Bennett said she was not aware of any requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to contact children at schools.
But the policy, and subsequent training to be conducted with district employees, would prepare schools to respond appropriately in the event that ICE or other federal agents attempt to conduct action on campuses.
"We're anticipating that it may happen," Bennett said. "And we know that people are afraid."
Recently, a group of individuals gathered in the Edison Elementary School parking lot for roughly 20 minutes while they prepared guns and put on vests with Homeland Security Investigations labels. The incident occurred during a weekend, while the school was closed, but was confirmed by the school's principal.
Bennett said she hopes to coordinate with Salt Lake City's municipal and law enforcement leaders about encouraging federal agencies to avoid operations at or around schools.
"My hope is that we won't have to be completely alone in that," Bennett said.