Flooded with questions after Trump win, Denver Public Schools produces immigration fact sheet

A Denver student holds a sign at a walkout to protest Trump. (Melanie Asmar/Chalkbeat)
A Denver student holds a sign at a walkout to protest Trump. (Melanie Asmar/Chalkbeat)
A Denver student holds a sign at a walkout to protest Trump. (Melanie Asmar/Chalkbeat)

By Melanie AsmarChalkbeat 

Denver Public Schools has produced a fact sheet in four languages answering immigration questions posed by anxious students and families in the wake of last week’s election of Donald Trump.

“We tremendously value the dignity and worth of every student we serve, every family we serve and every educator who works with us,” Superintendent Tom Boasberg said at a school board work session Monday night. He added that “a number of them are worried, fearful — either for their personal future or the future of members of their families.”

Trump has said he would end an Obama-initiated program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that provides protections to young undocumented immigrants. He has also vowed to build a wall along the Mexico-United States border — after he won, he said a fence will do in spots — and increase the number of federal agents who enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

More than three-quarters of DPS’s 91,500 students are children of color. About 56 percent of students last year were Latino and 14 percent were black. Thirty-seven percent were English language learners. The top three languages other than English spoken by DPS students were Spanish, Arabic and Vietnamese, according to district statistics.

DPS has made the fact sheet — presented in question-and-answer format — available in those languages, plus English. It was distributed to school leaders Tuesday in the hopes they’d share it with families, officials said.

The fact sheet (read it below) assures families that students have a right to a public education regardless of their immigration status — and that a president can’t take that away. It also says the district does not share information about students’ status with federal authorities.

The sheet also includes links to resources including a database of immigration lawyers and it urges families to stay away from scam artists who are not licensed attorneys.

“We’re thinking of, ‘How we can support our students, how we can be extraordinarily clear in how much we care for them and value them, and how we can be a center of learning so that the elections our kids experience moving forward will be ones where we do a better job celebrating what we have in common and focusing on genuine differences?’” Boasberg said Monday.

At least one school, George Washington High, is hosting an immigration forum this week to “provide post-election information and offer strategies to support and protect families,” according to the school’s website. Scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m., the forum is a joint venture between the school and local organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

Officials with several other metro school districts, including Aurora and Jefferson County, said school staff is speaking with students about their concerns on an individual basis. The superintendent of Westminster Public Schools, which serves a large Latino population, plans to address the election and its aftermath in a newsletter Wednesday, a district spokesman said.

Denver students have protested Trump’s election in a series of school walkouts last week and this week. While the district has encouraged students to stay on campus, officials have also said that if kids choose to leave, they support them.

Staff writer Yesenia Robles contributed to this report.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.