District taking steps to address immigrant students’, families’ fears

Green Acres Principal Amanda Plummer has helped address some parental concerns since the U.S. election last month.

She touched on the issue during a presentation at the Dec. 8 Lebanon Community School District Board meeting.

Green Acres houses the district’s English Language Learning program, in which 22 percent of the school’s population participates.

“We had a lot of Hispanic families that were actually truly afraid,” Plummer said.

They have held two meetings for parents to discuss their rights and the district policies.

“They weren’t entirely afraid of being harassed at school,” Plummer said. “We knew there were some instances, but it was just parroted, so we addressed it.”

The biggest fear was if they are going to be deported and if so, what is going to happen to their children.

“We really created a space to hear their concerns because I know personally, I just wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing here, so that the kids were safe here,” Plummer said.

Board member Richard Borden said he and Plummer spoke about the issue before the parent meeting.

“Those parents have those concerns and I’m really glad to hear that you’re very proactive and really sat down with those folks,” Borden said.

Plummer said it wasn’t just her.

“We had a whole team,” she said. “We have a lot of great staff members that were listening, that did that.”

The district does already has policies in place, Plummer said.

“If someone’s name is on the registration card, they can take that child,” she said. “If their name’s not on the registration card, then no one can take that child. So letting them know that made them feel better.”

Parents also were worried about their older children who had signed up for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA was established in 2012 and defers removal action for a certain period of time, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. People must register and meet certain criteria in order to qualify for the deferment. It does not provide lawful status.

“They had to register to get funds for college and now their children in the high school are registered immigrants,” Plummer said. “They’re afraid that (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) will come to the high school to take their children because they know they are illegal.”

They also took time at the parent meetings talk about harassment.

“Even at our school, we had one student tell another student, ‘You know what, they’re going to come and get you and take you guys back and they’re going to build a wall,’” Plummer said.

In addition to meetings, Green Acres conducted parent surveys.

“We were able to see that they felt that their child was safe here, they just had other concerns that they wanted support with,” she said.

During the board communication portion of the Dec. 8 meeting, Borden said he thinks the district should take a position that they’re a safe zone.

“People aren’t going to come in here and snatch kids out of school,” he said. “That came up at your meeting, where you really had parents concerned about that. You know and our policy is simply that if you’re not on the registration card, I don’t care if you’re in a uniform or not, you’re not taking a kid out of school.”

Borden reiterated that he wanted to have a policy in writing.

“I think we need to come together and voice that again to put these families at ease to say hey you know, we’re behind you,” he said.

Superintendent Rob Hess said the two parent meetings were good and another is planned in January.

“I also talked to the Lebanon police chief, and actually this is new information for me, but Oregon has what they call sanctuary-type laws in place where law enforcement cannot ask about a person’s immigration status,” Hess said. “That is illegal. No police officer is going to stop you and say show me your papers or where did you come from? That’s important for families to know.”

The district also is taking steps to train staff members to work with people from different backgrounds, he said.

Plummer said one of the meetings they had was facilitated by Pedro Sosa from the American Friends Service Community. He led a discussion on civil rights.

“We also had Robert Barraza read an emotional provoking poem at the closing of the meeting,” Plummer said. “These were both inspirational individuals there to help us support all of our families.”

At this meeting, people were systematically divided into two groups on different sides of the room.

“(Barraza) said, ‘This group is going to be detained or be deported. How does that make you feel that you weren’t?’

“So you have that feeling of you’re lucky but you also feel guilty and we’re sad because, every single one of us had either family or a friend that was in both places. That really represented the fear that they really have right now.”