Board makes clear Aurora Public Schools a welcoming place for immigrants

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AURORA | A day after city council declared Aurora is not a sanctuary city, the Aurora Public School board reiterated its support of its immigrant student population regardless of legal status.

The APS board Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution brought by the education nonprofit Rise Colorado and a large group of immigrant students and parents. The resolution reaffirms APS policy to not share student information including immigration status with anyone. It also directs APS to collaborate with service providers and other nonprofits that work with the immigrant community.  

“I’m proud of all the families and students who stayed committed to this process and worked with APS and board members to get this resolution passed,” said Veronica Palmer, CEO of Rise Colorado. “We celebrate tonight, and then get to work helping the community develop their voice so they can be the number one advocates for their children.”

The resolution doesn’t create any new policy for APS. Instead, it serves as more of a declaration to make sure immigrant students and families know their rights and can be assured APS won’t take part in immigration action. It also directs APS to translate its memo on how to respond to requests for student information and access to school property by immigration officials into the top 10 languages spoken by APS families.

“The only thing … that would be new work for us would be translating the memo we already put out two months ago and putting it on our website,” said Superintendent Rico Munn before the meeting. “Everything else we basically already do. It’s putting it all into one place and making (our policies) clear to a broader community.”

The resolution also directs APS to get and update contact information for family and guardians of children in the event a parent is detained. APS already gets contact information like that in case a student is not picked up from school or winds up in an emergency situation, Munn said.

“Legally we’re required to serve students by law, regardless of immigration status. And morally we’re required to do right by any student and that means we make sure they’re needs are tended to,” said Dan Jorgensen, the board member who worked to finalize the resolution language. “We want to serve our children to best of our ability and make sure kids are in a safe environment, regardless of immigration status. It only benefits our community to have all children educated.”

During its Tuesday meeting, the board was able to build unanimous support by changing the title of the resolution to narrowly focus on immigration status. Board members Cathy Wildman and JulieMarie Shepherd Macklin both expressed support for reaffirming APS stated policy but thought the title referring to a “safe and inclusive school community” was too broad for a resolution that only deals with immigration status and students.

Shepherd Macklin said one parent of a gender nonconforming child asked her, if the resolution is about safety and security of students, why didn’t it also address their child’s situation. Shepherd Macklin said she thought it would be better to narrow the title to make sure the resolution’s focus on immigrant and refugee students didn’t exclude other vulnerable student populations.

“This resolution is about (refugees and immigrants) and I’m just wondering why it’s not in the title,” Shepherd Macklin said.  

After the title change specifying that the resolution deals with immigrant and refugee students, the board was able to unanimously move it to an action item and subsequently unanimously approved the resolution.