DENVER -- Chanting, "build bridges, not walls," students and families concerned about deportation rallied in front of DPS headquarters Thursday, asking board members to vote for a sanctuary resolution.
"Fear and uncertainty. That's what I have been hearing from students and from my school communities as I go out and visit folks," said board member Lisa Flores.
In response, Flores introduced a resolution stating that Denver Public Schools will "do everything in its lawful power to protect students' confidential information and to ensure that learning environments are not disrupted by immigration enforcement actions."
"What that means," Flores said, "is that we are committed to protecting...their schools, their after school activities and bus rides from immigration enforcement."
"It's very important that our students and our families know that our students will be safe," said Superintendent Tom Boasberg.
The resolution states:
· The district will continue its practice to not collect or maintain any information about our students’ immigration status.
· Any request by a federal immigration official (a) for entry into any District school or other District property, (b) to communicate with any student while that student is under the supervision of the district during any school activity or while using District transportation, or (c) for any information about our students shall be immediately forwarded to the District’s Office of General Counsel.
· In responding to such requests, the District’s Office of General Counsel will not share information or provide access to our students unless required by law and will do everything in the District’s lawful power to protect the constitutional and legal rights of the District’s students.
· For example, the Office of General Counsel will not grant access to our students unless the official presents a valid search warrant issued by a federal or state judge or magistrate. In very narrow and rare “exigent circumstances,” which are defined by federal law, District employees are legally required to allow access without a valid search warrant. It is extremely unlikely that exigent circumstances will be present while our students are engaged in school activities because exigent circumstances generally involve situations where law enforcement is in hot pursuit of a fleeing criminal suspect or where evidence of a crime is about to be destroyed.
"I'm very happy that they're taking this step in the right direction," said Arianna Perea, one of the students who rallied in front of district headquarters.
Fellow student Alanis Hernandez agreed with that sentiment.
"It shows that DPS is really caring for students," she said, "and is doing everything they can to help the community."
The resolution vote came on the same day that numerous students, and some staff, opted not to go to school in observance of "A day without Immigrants."
DPS Media Relations Director Will Jones said attendance district wide "appears to be down about 5 percent," compared to Wednesday.
He said figures were higher for some secondary schools.
"In our most impacted schools," he said, "we are hearing attendance rates between 30 and 50 percent."
Confusion about a staff shortage at Skinner Middle School caused many students to call parents and ask for a hand delivered lunch.
"My grandchildren called me and said, 'can you bring me some lunch,'" said Mandy Abeyta. "I'm like, 'why?' And they said, 'cause the lunch people didn't come in.'"
Jones told Denver7 that the kitchen staff came to work, then left, then came back again.
"We're not sure yet what that confusion was about," he said.
Jones added that hot meals were available for all students but some parents or grandparents didn't get the message before they delivered the requested meals to their children.