Mayra Diosdado, whose son and daughter attend Guilford Elementary in Greensboro, said many immigrant parents are fearful about what might happen to their children in the event that the parents are deported under a recent executive order issued by President Trump.

Diosdado and three other parents with children in schools in Greensboro and High Point addressed the Guilford County School Board on Thursday evening, requesting a meeting with administration to discuss strategies for protecting their children’s rights. The parents have been meeting in each other’s homes, but are looking for assurance that they can meet in schools after hours without fear of repercussions.

“It would be really useful,” Diosdado said through a translator, “because we’d be informed about what’s happening. They could tell us about our rights and about the rights of our kids. To get many more parents informed, we think the schools are safe spaces for us.”

During its Feb. 4 winter retreat, the school board unanimously passed a resolution “affirming commitment to students and families of all national origins.” The parents applauded the school board for the resolution, but said they want to discuss school policy in relation to Trump’s executive orders with more specifics.

[pullquote]”Having safe schools and schools being safe places is a prerequisite for good education. But the rhetoric and the division and the things that our children are hearing on the news… flies directly in the face of what it means to be a safe place.” — Guilford Elementary teacher Todd Warren[/pullquote]On Jan. 25, Trump issued an executive order, entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” that requires the Department of Homeland Security to hire an additional 10,000 immigration officers to remove undocumented immigrants, broadens enforcement prioritization to include virtually any person who entered the country unlawfully or overstayed a visa, and asks the department to step up efforts to engage local agencies in immigration enforcement.

Guilford County School Board Chair Alan Duncan publicly addressed children in Guilford County who are undocumented in late January with an assurance that by law the district is not allowed to ask whether they are documented. He also said the district is committed to meeting the educational needs of all students, regardless of their immigration status.

Diosdado said school leaders’ actions and statements to date have given parents reassurance, but they want the district to go a step further and ensure that schools don’t inadvertently release their children’s personal information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Todd Warren, a teacher at Guilford Elementary and Guilford County Association of Educators officer, echoed Diosdado’s concern. He said fellow educators in Durham County have raised questions about whether their school system might have compromised students’ information.

“I would like to think that wouldn’t happen here,” he said. “But we need to have that spelled out explicitly.”

Warren told the board: “Having safe schools and schools being safe places is a prerequisite for good education. But the rhetoric and the division and the things that our children are hearing on the news… flies directly in the face of what it means to be a safe place.”

Warren and two other teachers voiced their support for the parents’ request for an explicit policy providing space and resources to meet in schools after hours.

“I know there are so many teachers and principals who are so supportive and would be happy to hold meetings,” explained Leah Hendershot, a teacher at Southern Guilford Middle School and also a Guilford County Association of Educators officer. “There is a fear of having meetings on their premises. I think it would be helpful for the board to say, ‘Not only do we allow it, but we encourage it.’”

Explicit authorization might seem unnecessary, but Warren said by the nature of their job, teachers are wary of acting outside the bounds of official policy.

“Kind of by nature we’re rule-followers,” he said. “Teachers just want to see it spelled out that our support for immigrant students and their families includes meeting in schools, the school system providing interpreters, and access to meeting with school officials.”

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