Glenwood High career expo mishap leads to blast of comments from community at Roaring Fork board meeting

Los residentes de Roaring Fork se reúnen el miércoles 12 de abril de 2023 para expresar sus preocupaciones luego de la presencia de la Patrulla Fronteriza de EE. UU. en una exposición profesional reciente.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

The Roaring Fork District school board heard numerous public comments Wednesday regarding concerns for the U.S. Border Patrol’s presence at a March 21 career expo hosted at Glenwood Springs High School.

Following a 2016 Safe Haven Resolution passed by Roaring Fork School District after a number of incidents taking place in previous years, local Latino activist organization Voces Unidas made their presence felt on Wednesday night as a group of residents addressed the Roaring Fork Board of Education and Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez. 

A document that highlights the values that Roaring Fork Schools has to “create a safe and caring environment” and “foster a culture of trust and respect among all stakeholders,” the Border Patrol’s booth at the expo served as a setback for the Latino community, Voces Unidas President and CEO Alex Sánchez said.

“It was a violation of our trust with a school system that already has an ugly history with our community,” Sánchez said in a follow-up interview on Thursday.

Referencing a 2011 incident within the Roaring Fork Valley where school resource officers were also working part-time with federal immigration agencies, Sánchez said he knows first hand the effect that this latest incident had on Latino families throughout the community

“My own mother was part of a raid, so I’m familiar with how it can tear a family apart,” Sánchez said. “As a community, we are forced to live in fear of leaving for work and not knowing if you’re gonna come back and see your kids again.”

Many parents and students alike stepped up to the podium Wednesday night to express their concerns surrounding Border Patrol’s presence at the March 21 career expo. 

“This event was meant to be an opportunity for students to find jobs and career paths,” Christopher Menjivar Cornejo, a junior at Glenwood Springs High School, said at the meeting. “Inviting Border Patrol felt targeted towards the community and felt targeted in trying to make us feel unsafe.”

The incident prompted apologies from Glenwood Springs High School Principal Paul Freeman and principals of the other high schools, as well as from Superintendent Rodríguez and members of the board, as well as the organizers, Carbondale-based nonprofit Youthentity. The incident has raised cause for concern about how the district will go about preventing occurrences like this from happening in the future.

While many residents expressed their concerns at the meeting, some sought for ways to entertain both those hurt and interested in following a career path in law enforcement.

“When I first heard about the apology, my initial reaction was frustration and disbelief that we would turn away an employer of good jobs and folks who serve their country and save lives,” Carbondale resident Joe Kaylen said at the meeting. “Listening to the testimony tonight and talking to neighbors and friends I realize there are very good reasons why many students would not feel safe around Border Patrol agents. I am advocating that our leaders be leaders. Work on solutions so that we can focus on educating our students. Those vulnerable as well as those interested in law enforcement.”

Roaring Fork’s first year working with Youthentity after working with the founding organization, GlenX, for a number of years, the district’s Public Information Officer Kelsy Been says they will have to pay closer attention to who their third party organizer invites to future fairs. 

“This is the first year where school leaders, counselors and I believe even students weren’t involved in reviewing the organizations that had signed up for the event,” Been said. “We have talked with Youthentity and we will certainly be involved in that process going forward.”

Following the incident, Sánchez is very clear as to what he and the rest of the Latino community want to see from the school district going forward

“We are very intentional with what we’re asking for. Now that we’ve seen a violation of the public’s trust, we want to see that resolution put into policy,” Sánchez said. “We want to see the board and the school district take those principles that were established in that resolution and find ways to create that to embed that into policy. The resolution is great but oftentimes it does not carry the same weight, obviously of enforcement as a policy or regulation.”

The Roaring Fork School Board will meet for its second meeting of the month on April 26. Among the items to be discussed is the district’s health curriculum.

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