All Are Welcome in the AAPS
Friday, February 17, 2017
In light of continuing national and local developments, this is an important time to publicly communicate and further clarify our position regarding immigrant and refugee students in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
We appreciate the continuing work of our AAPS school teams, including classroom teachers and leaders in support of all our students, and particularly the work to extend outreach to those who are most vulnerable at this time. As Superintendent, I am deeply proud of the efforts of our school teams to ensure that ALL children and their families feel welcome, embraced and celebrated in the Ann Arbor Public Schools on every school day.
We remain focused in addressing real and pressing challenges with our students from immigrant families; current work involves aligning our efforts in tandem with community organizations so that we provide strategic support for our impacted AAPS students.
As an indication of our current reality in our Ann Arbor community, yesterday, designated as A Day Without Immigrants, absence rates were higher than usual for this time of year in all but four elementary schools. In a few elementary schools, absentee rates were significantly higher, ranging between two and three times the usual rate. The schools affected align with areas where children from immigrant families live in greater numbers. Our attendance data indicates that in these most at-risk areas of our community, secondary school attendance was impacted as well. We will continue to monitor student attendance rates to observe patterns and better align our strategic support of students and their families in the AAPS.
We realize that these are challenging days for many in our country and we are seeing the level of concern escalating here in Ann Arbor, particularly as stories are shared of increasing frequency of immigration raids and deportations occurring. Our children, many who were either born in the U.S. or have only ever known the U.S. as their home, are becoming more troubled by what they hear and see; children are understandably disturbed by the increasing worries their families are experiencing. This concern is showing in student attendance and engagement at school.
We are working together to step up our efforts across the AAPS District, more directly, and more publicly, to encourage and support our most vulnerable students and their families. We are planning a number of steps that will more publicly communicate and clarify the components of the Board's Resolution in Support of Immigrant Students, adopted February 8th, 2017 as well as specific highlights of how we plan to intensify our partnerships with community organizations to further ensure support of ALL our AAPS students and families. More information on these additional steps will be forthcoming within a few days.
The AAPS remains deeply committed to supporting ALL our students and their families, regardless of national origin, religion or immigration status. We stand strong in support of our immigrant, Muslim, and refugee students and their families. Our school teams work every day to ensure that ALL children are welcomed, embraced, and valued as important members of our AAPS learning community in each of our classrooms and schools; this value and practice remains firm today.
In the AAPS, we view diversity as our strength, and we respect and value each of our students and their families. In Ann Arbor, we are privileged to work and live in a diverse, international school environment and we appreciate this as a gift that enriches our community. Within the AAPS, we all benefit from the richness of experience and perspective, language, cultural, and cognitive connections that diversity brings to learning within our classrooms, schools and across our Ann Arbor community. We know the multicultural learning experience within our classrooms better prepares all our children for the globally connected world in which they will live and work today and into the future.
We understand that many of our children are experiencing fear as a result of recent national developments, and we will continue to reassure all within our community of our ongoing engagement and support. Our school teams, teachers and principals remain ready to support our children and families who are experiencing distress.
- In keeping with federal law, we will continue in our commitment and practice to ensure that a child’s immigration status will have no impact whatsoever on his or her education in the AAPS.
- Children have a constitutional right to equal access to education regardless of their immigration status or the status of their parents.
- The fundamental right to access public education is constitutionally protected, and cannot be taken away by the president or state or federal legislators.
- In the AAPS, we will not ask about a child’s immigration status at school. Public school districts have a legal obligation to enroll students regardless of their immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.
- It continues to be the policy of the Ann Arbor Public Schools not to allow any individual or organization to enter a school site if the educational setting would be disrupted by that visit; any request by the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Office (ICE), state or local law enforcement agencies acting on behalf of ICE, or agents or officers for any federal, state, or local agency attempting to enforce federal immigration laws to visit a school site should be presented to the Superintendent’s Office for review as to whether access to the site is permitted by law, a signed judicial warrant is required, or any other legal considerations apply; this review should be made expeditiously, but before any immigration law enforcement agent or officer appears at a school site.
- Should ICE or other immigration law enforcement agents request any student information, the request should be referred to the Superintendent’s Office to ensure compliance with Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), student constitutional privacy, standards for a judicial warrant, and any other limitation on disclosure; this review should be conducted expeditiously, but before any information is disclosed.
In addition, we will continue to partner and coordinate with our many excellent Ann Arbor community organizations and resources to connect additional support for our families beyond the school setting. We encourage anyone in need of assistance to reach out to your teacher, school principal or call (734) 994-2200 and we will respond with information and support.
For more detailed information, please see the AAPSImmigrant Students FAQ, and also Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff. These support documents will also be shared on our website www.a2schools.org.
During this time of national rhetoric that marginalizes individuals within our community, we want everyone to know that in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, we will see, stand with, and remain #A2gether in support of all our children, understanding that each of our 17,448 students brings a unique and beautiful presence to our classrooms.
Jeanice K. Swift
Superintendent of Schools