School Board Resolutions to Designate Safe Zones

Emma Leheny serves as Senior Counsel for the National Education Association, the nation’s largest professional employee organization. For two decades, Leheny has represented unions, low-wage workers, and recipients of government benefits. Leheny previously served as Vice-Chair of the National Immigration Law Center Board of Directors and as Chief Counsel for the California Teachers Association.

Anti-immigrant statements by Trump and his supporters have caused anxiety among school children throughout the country. Bullying and harassment in schools have been fueled by Trump’s slurs. Educators have been supporting our schools and students – with guidance, inclusive curricula, and anti-bullying resources. But given Trump’s stated plan to rescind all Obama executive actions, school sites may soon see ICE agents attempting to enter campus. ICE issued a memorandum in 2011 stating schools were off-limits for immigration enforcement, except in exigent circumstances. We can expect that memo to be repudiated, or at a minimum, ignored in the next administration. So our students and educators are looking for answers: what can keep our schools safe for all of our students?

NEA has developed this template resolution and policy for use by any school board. It recognizes the constitutional rights of undocumented students to access a free, public K-12 education, as set forth by the Supreme Court in Plyler v. Doe. It puts in place steps for district administration to follow if approached by ICE. It re-iterates the support and respect a school community holds for all of its students and families. Several large school districts have already taken steps in this direction – Los Angeles, for example, enacted and re-affirmed a resolution opposing immigration enforcement at school.

The Tenth Amendment also creates a bulwark against feared efforts by the new administration to overreach by attempting to coerce local and state compliance with an anti-immigrant agenda. This proposed NEA language educates local administrators about what protection they can offer students, even in the face of ICE intimidation.

As an educator, parent, or community member, you are empowered to attend the meetings of your local school board, speak out on this issue, and propose this language. Your grassroots effort will speak volumes to our students. Someday – a day that we hope will never come – your school board’s action may be important in limiting the actions that ICE may take in your schools. Join us as we bring the word to every school in every valley, from the San Joaquin to the Rio Grande.

For more information on these resolutions, contact NEA at

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