Roaring Fork Schools adopt ‘safe haven’ resolution
Roaring Fork School District officials affirmed Wednesday that area schools will be a safe environment for immigrant students amid racially motivated incidents across the country following last month’s presidential election.
“Some of the things we’ve seen and heard since the election are alarming,” RFSD Board of Education member Matt Hamilton said at a special morning meeting. At the meeting, the board unanimously approved a resolution ensuring Roaring Fork Schools will provide a “safe haven” for immigrant students and will not discriminate in offering an education to students whose immigration status may be in question.
“No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, no one deserves to be treated that way, especially when you’re 11 or 12 years old,” Hamilton said.
The formal board resolution comes in follow-up to efforts by RFSD Superintendent Rob Stein and leaders of various human service organizations to ease the concerns of immigrant families about possible stepped-up deportation under a Trump administration.
For the school district’s part, the board pledged to provide equal access to education for all students, “as authorized by law and our policies.”
It will also provide “safe and supportive spaces for students and community members, free from intimidation, hostility or violence, including threat of deportation,” the resolution states.
Glenwood Springs High School student Peyton Hagemann objected to the resolution in speaking before the board after raising concerns in an email to Stein.
“You should be making decisions based on the common good of all students, instead of one group,” Hagemann said, adding it’s unfair to cater to immigrant students by promoting programs such as the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. GSHS hosted a DACA information meeting Tuesday.
Colorado public schools are required to provide an education to any resident of the state between the ages of 6 and 21, regardless of immigration status, the resolution points out.
Stein, who prepared the resolution with help from other district officials and Dave Smith, who runs the Roaring Fork Pre-Collegiate Program, said the resolution is grounded in existing RFSD policy, state and federal laws, and constitutional protections.
School board member Shane Larson questioned whether the term “safe haven” might be misinterpreted as refusing to cooperate with law enforcement agencies if necessary.
That’s not the case, Stein assured. In fact, the more “politically charged” term “safe sanctuary” was avoided for that reason, he and Smith said.
Some faith-based organizations, colleges and even entire cities have adopted policies saying they will protect non-criminal immigrants who are undocumented and being threatened with deportation.
“I don’t think the school district has gone that far, or should,” Smith said. “We decided not to go so far as to say it’s a sanctuary.”
Schools do have a duty to cooperate with law enforcement, he said, but they also have an “affirmative obligation not to ask students or their parents about immigration status for purposes of education services.”
The school board resolution goes on to say that the district does not collaborate with immigration enforcement agencies “or share information that could put a student’s security at risk.”
Roaring Fork Schools have a standing policy that school resource officers, who are usually working police officers in the local community who also work in the schools, cannot work directly with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
That policy was adopted several years ago after it was revealed that some school resource officers in the district had been working under separate contract with ICE outside of their resource officer duties.
Stein said after the meeting that he appreciated Hagemann’s comments.
“I felt he represented himself and his views well, and thought he was very respectful and modeling the kinds of discourse we hope to see when people disagree on these important issues,” Stein said.