FWCS affirms safe setting for immigrants

March 1, 2017 GMT

The Fort Wayne Community Schools board on Monday responded to students’ fears about their safety by unanimously approving a resolution declaring that the district will provide a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students, regardless of immigration status.

The item, which was not listed on the agenda, raised some concerns among board members. Glenna Jehl asked about its legal impact on the district, and Tom Smith proposed delaying the vote until the board’s next meeting to provide time for public input, calling immigration a “very hot topic.”

“It’s political,” he said. “It’s polarizing.”

Superintendent Wendy Robinson stressed the one-page resolution is a message to the community, which is made up of people from all over the world who are asking whether they are safe at school.

Student attendance is especially important now because ISTEP+ testing began Monday, and districts are expected to have 95 percent participation, she said.

Board member Steve Corona said this is a “very unsettling time” for many families. The Trump administration recently released wide-ranging new guidelines that allow federal authorities to take stronger enforcement actions against illegal immigrants.

Students are afraid to put their name on any piece of paper for fear of something happening to their families, Corona said, adding that that includes scholarship applications. “There’s a lot of fear right now among students,” he said.

Robinson said the resolution only states existing practices. It addresses the “fear issue,” which is growing because students and their families don’t know where the district stands, she said.

“I hope we don’t make it bigger than that,” she said.

The resolution states, in part, that the board “recognizes the tremendous value and diversity that immigrant students and families bring to the district” and “finds that immigration-enforcement activities at our schools would significantly disrupt the learning environment and interfere with our students’ rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.”

It also states that FWCS will refrain from inquiring about students’ and parents’ immigration status, and that district employees, contractors, volunteers and representatives won’t assist immigration enforcement efforts by collecting or providing information about the immigration status of any student or their family.

“In public education, we welcome anyone who comes through the door,” board President Julie Hollings­worth said.

Robinson noted that board Vice President Mark Gia­Quinta, who was away on business, had weighed in on the topic and was disappointed to miss the meeting.

Also Monday, the board announced it will accept written applications for GiaQuinta’s seat through March 13. GiaQuinta announced last week he will resign effective April 1. His term expires at the end of 2018.

Applicants must have lived in the school district for at least a year, be at least 21 years old and be a registered voter. Applicants employed by the district must be prepared to resign if appointed.

Applications should include the candidate’s qualifications, background, skills, and knowledge or experience with FWCS.

Submit applications to Hollingsworth in care of Barbara Trout, Clerk of the Board, Fort Wayne Community Schools, 1200 S. Clinton St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802, or to Barbara.trout@fwcs.k12.in.us.


The Washington Post contributed to this story.