KIPP, HISD work to ease fears of immigrant parents

By Shelby Webb

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Local schools, including charter schools, a responding in different ways to rising concerns in the immigrant communities about the evolving immigration policies of the Trump Administration that are targeting people here illegally, but who have otherwise not committed any crimes.

Houston ISD and several local charter-school operators, including KIPP and YES Prep, have publicly voiced support of immigrant students and their families, including those living in the U.S. without permission.

Local KIPP schools have been hosting immigration forums with attorneys and families. They’ve handed out fact sheets and phone numbers for immigrant resource organizations. Co-founder Mike Feinberg spearheaded a campaign to get nearly 100 public and charter school organizations and operators across the country to sign a letter endorsing the BRIDGE Act, which would shield from deportation youths brought to this country as children without legal permission, until Congress passes comprehensive immigration legislation. Rice University and Teach for America were among the co-signees.

Feinberg said such actions help parents and students know their schools are on their side. They also help differentiate overblown rumors from new realities, Feinberg said.

“We don’t teach in a bubble,” Feinberg said. “Our kids are not going to learn how to reduce fractions well if they’re afraid, and they especially will not learn how to reduce fractions well if they’re not coming to school.”

Houston ISD has been similarly outspoken about its intentions to protect students, regardless of immigration status.

In February, Houston ISD’s board unanimously adopted a resolution expressing support and protection for students and families living in the U.S. without approval. It reads, in part “… the Board understands the stress endured by families whose integrity is threatened by the imposition of travel bans, especially if the family member directly impacted is a parent of an HISD student.”

Superintendent Richard Carranza joined other district staff during a Spanish-language phone bank to answer questions from Univision viewers. Carranza, who began his academic career as an English language learner in California, often uses public speaking engagements to try to quell fears of immigrant families.

Some districts with a majority of Hispanic students — including the Pasadena and Aldine ISDs — have mostly stayed mum. Officials there said they would continue to educate their students regardless of immigration status, as required by a 1982 Supreme Court ruling.

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