Answers to common questions about student and family immigration status and schools
Eugene School District 4J is committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all of our students, staff and families. The Eugene School Board on Feb. 15 unanimously approved a resolution affirming their commitment to a safe, inclusive and supportive school environment for all students, regardless of their national origin, immigration or documentation status.
District staff work hard to ensure our schools are safe spaces for learning for every one of our students. This includes protecting our students from discrimination, bullying and harassment, and making sure that our students and families do not have any barriers to their education based on their race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status or other characteristics.
In recent months the district has heard many questions and concerns about ensuring schools are safe spaces for all children, including students and families who are documented or undocumented immigrants to the United States. Below are answers to some common questions about student and family immigration status and schools.
Q: Does undocumented immigration status have any impact on a child’s education in Eugene School District 4J?
A: None. Public schools have a legal obligation to educate children regardless of the student’s or parent’s immigration status. Children have equal access to public education without regard to immigration status. The United States Supreme Court has upheld that right, consistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (see Plyler v. Doe, 1982).
Q: Does Eugene School District 4J ask for a child’s immigration status when he or she enrolls?
A: No. Public school districts must enroll students regardless of their immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin. District staff do not ask for or record information about students’ or parents’ immigration status. Parents are not asked for a social security number and may use documentation other than a birth certificate to verify their child’s age.
Q: Would a school notify immigration officials about students’ immigration status?
A: Schools do not ask students or families about their immigration status when they enroll, and if staff became aware of a lack of legal immigration status, the district would not notify immigration officials. By law, students’ personally identifiable information and records are confidential and are only disclosed with parent consent or as permitted or required by district policy and state and federal laws. Only “directory information” (such as a student’s name, contact information, photograph, and sports and activities) may be released without specific consent or a specific requirement, and parents have the right to opt out annually from the disclosure of directory information.
Q: Do law enforcement officers and immigration officials have access to students in schools?
A: Visitors may not enter the private areas of a school, beyond the front office or other public areas, without the permission of the front office. Law enforcement officers, including federal immigration officers, may only take a child from school with a lawfully issued arrest warrant, protective custody order, other court order, or permission of the parent or guardian. If a school is presented with a court order or warrant by a law enforcement agent seeking access to confidential information or private spaces of the school, the school office will contact the superintendent’s office or district legal counsel for advice.
Q: Will school resource officers or other local law enforcement seek to gather information or enforce immigration laws in 4J schools?
A: No. The Eugene Police Department has affirmed that it shares Eugene School District 4J’s goal of a learning environment that is safe and free from fear, and EPD’s school resource team is dedicated to ensuring this goal is met for our local schools. There is a distinct difference between the roles played by local and federal law enforcement. Oregon police agencies, including the Eugene Police Department, have no legal authority to enforce federal immigration laws. Local law enforcement agencies in Oregon are prohibited by law from using agency money, equipment or personnel to detect or apprehend someone who has not committed a crime and whose only violation is that they are persons of foreign citizenship present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.
Q: What should someone do if they want to understand their immigration rights?
A: Schools cannot provide legal advice. Licensed immigration attorneys (not notarios or others who are not licensed attorneys) can provide accurate advice about immigration status and how a person can pursue any legal rights they might have. For example, a person who is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) may want to speak with an immigration attorney to determine if they have access to more reliable immigration status options, because DACA is based on an executive order by the previous president and the new president could choose to overturn that order. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has a list of immigration attorneys available in English and Spanish.
Q: What does the district do to prevent students or families from being harassed or discriminated against?
A: In Eugene School District 4J we believe deeply in ensuring equity—it is one of our core values. We have policies in place that prohibit discrimination, bullying and harassment on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin and many other protected classes. We hold staff to these standards, teach students about behavior expectations, and work with students to create a safe school climate.
Q: What should someone do if they feel they have been the victim of discrimination or harassment?
A: Please report the behavior to a school administrator or other school staff member right away. We take these complaints very seriously and rely on our families, students and staff to share concerns so we can respond appropriately and effectively to ensure everyone’s safety. If the concerned person feels the issue hasn’t been resolved after working with the school administrator, they may file a formal complaint with the superintendent’s office. Complaint forms are available from school offices and the district office, 200 N. Monroe St., 541-790-7707.
Thanks to our Eugene School District 4J community for your contributions to creating a strong and inclusive community that supports all 4J students and families.