AISD teachers fight for freedom to distribute ICE educational material

Education Austin, Austin ISD trustees, along with city and state leaders met in front of Lanier High School Wednesday morning to encourage the district to take a stand on keeping students and their parents safe during a time of uncharted territory.

"The anxiety is that an ICE officer may show up to a school campus and remove students from this classroom.  Or the other issue is...a circumstance if we have a child who is waiting for a parent or a family member or a legal guardian that is picked up by ICE officials and there is no one there to pick up the child," said AISD trustee Paul Saldana.

This week, AISD attorneys sent out a memo saying employees may face administrative and legal consequences if they use their position to engage in prohibited speech or expressions.

A memo that Saldana described as so full of legal jargon it's open to interpretation.

Many in the district understood it to mean they can't distribute educational materials to parents or students about how to deal with ICE.

"We just couldn't disagree more.  This is about information that our families need.  Our students are scared, they're terrified to come to school, our families are scared to send their kids to school.  The least we can do is assure them of accurate and reliable information, facts of what to know when ICE comes to their door," Zarifis said.

Education Austin President Ken Zarifis says it's information they've been providing for years.

"This is not political or agitational information.  This is fact-based information.  If ICE knocks on your door, don't answer," Zarifis said.

Austin ISD says Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz was meeting with principals during the press conference so he couldn't attend.  He was invited.

A couple of hours later at AISD headquarters, Saldana, other trustees and Superintendent Cruz attended a board operations committee meeting.

Saldana tried to encourage the board to approve a resolution reiterating the district's commitment to a safe learning environment.  The immigration materials subject came up.

"I had 5 schools where our members called and said the principals took all the fliers and threw them away," said Montserrat Garibay with Education Austin at the meeting.

"Right now the perception is -- and that's why we have folks that we're basically saying that teachers cannot provide resources or information to their parents or to the students because they run the risk of losing their job.  And I know that's not what we're saying but that is how it's coming across," Saldana said.

Cruz was encouraged to clarify and to remind the community of the district's values. Cruz says if there was any doubt, he supports the students.

"We also have to make sure we're providing accurate information.  This is outside of our area.  We can align curriculum, we look at reading fluency.  This is a different field," Cruz said.

Attorneys for AISD were at the meeting today.  They were asked point blank: can ICE come onto campus and arrest a student?
The attorney said if an ICE officer or any law enforcement officer has the right warrant, there's nothing they can do to stop them from coming to campus and making an arrest.
But the attorney said ICE has told them they tend to stay away from schools, churches and hospitals because it's just too sensitive.
The AISD board is planning to discuss their immigration plan further at a special-called meeting Monday evening.

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