School district to address concerns about undocumented students’ rights

Editor’s note: This story is appearing in a slightly abridged form from this month’s Lebanon Local newspaper. This is the full-length story.

YESENIA SALINAS, right, district family support specialist, translates families’ safety concerns to the Lebanon Community School District Board at Lebanon High School on Jan. 12.

The Lebanon Community School District will draft a resolution that addresses the rights of undocumented students after parents showed up at the School Board’s Jan. 12 meeting.

Yesenia Salinas, district family support specialist, helped translate the safety concerns of several families to board members at the meeting.

In a conversation following the meeting, Salinas said the families’ main concern was their children being separated from them because of new policies under president-elect Donald Trump.

The parents spoke Lebanon Local with the assistance of Salinas to translate.

Parent Evodio Rosales said while his children have not experienced it, friends in other school districts have experienced racism since Trump was elected.

“We appreciate all the support the school district has given to us and we’re looking forward to the support that they are looking and planning to give us,” Evodio said.

Another parent who was there said he is concerned about disrespect, for example one student telling another to go back to Mexico.

Maria Garcia also thinks it comes down teaching children to respect each other, she said.

Salinas has been helping families understand the state and federal laws, as well as district policy.

“We wanted to thank her,” Rosales said of Salinas. “She is helping us a lot. And Martha Calderon. They are amazing people. They are finding information for us, doing everything they can to help us.”

The families left after they spoke but board members revisited the topic later in the meeting.

Nicole Hundley, executive secretary, provided three different districts’ responses to immigrant families’ concerns in board members’ meeting packets, as well as an excerpt on some of the laws.

“You mentioned this last board meeting, that we do have a policy in place that if you’re not on the registration you don’t pull a kid out,” board member Richard Borden said to fellow board member Mike Martin.

Borden said he wanted to make a public statement for the concerned parents.

Board member Kellie Weber said she was concerned that the families were not there to hear their discussion and also wanted to make sure that any policy be translated to Spanish for their benefit.

“If the board created a statement, we would translate it,” Hundley said.

Superintendent Rob Hess said that the examples from other districts had been legally vetted and also show differences in how such a resolution may be structured.

“I like Eugene’s short and sweet and bullet points,” Weber said.

Board Chair Russ McUne said he preferred the Corvallis School District’s approach because, he said, it looks more “official.”

Martin also asked to see the district’s anti-discrimination policies, which Hess said Hundley could have  available by the next meeting.

Weber volunteered to work with Hundley to craft a document for LCSD and meet with families who are concerned.

“I happen to be taking Spanish right now, so I’ll try out my skills,” Weber said.

“The meeting will occur in Spanish,” Hess said.

“Bueno,” she responded.

In other action, the board voted 4-1 to approve a drug testing program, with board member Jerry Williams voting against.

Borden said he did not think punitive measures were a good incentive for students. He also was concerned that the program would only benefit the few students who are involved in athletics.

He mentioned that Assistant Superintendent Bo Yates said at the last meeting that the research did not support the effectiveness of these types of programs.

While he did not find statistical evidence of the program’s effectiveness, Athletic Director Kraig Hoene  said other districts he’s talked to have cited anecdotal evidence that drug testing programs change the culture in their athletics programs.

To Borden’s concerns about the program only benefiting athletes and not the general population of the school, Hoene said they hold their athletes to a higher standard.

Williams said he did see the benefit of using it as a deterrent.

“How do you measure culture?,” Borden asked. “Everybody’s happy?”

McUne brought up the benefit of combining the deterrent with a diversion program.

“That’s a good point,” Borden said. “Our diversion program is based upon L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology.”

“I talked to Rob (Hess) about that,” McUne said.

The diversion program is only one option and there is another program available through Linn County, he said

“It was something that was used in common practice,” Hoene said. “The organization provides it free. It’s free to schools.”

Hess said that only three students have participated in the “Truth About Drugs” program, and added that the district can look for other programs.

“Who brought this to the board for consideration?” Weber asked. “The coaches.”

Coaches know their students, she said.

“It seems pretty arrogant when we think we know more than the coaches do,” Weber said.

She pointed out that although Yates did not see research to support the testing, he would get behind the coaches.

“Let’s let the coaches do their jobs,” Weber said.

“Tomorrow we’re meeting as a group to cut out a bunch of money,” Yates said. “Are you asking for a policy or policy and funding?”

Yates asked Hoene if the coaches would still support it if the money came out of athletics.

“It comes from somewhere else,” Yates added. “It’s not magic.”

Hoene said some outside business people were interested in sponsoring.

Weber said there are other areas where money could be cut, citing a school she visited where everyone had matching T-shirts.

Martin suggested trying the program for a year.

“I don’t think $5,000 is going to break our budget,” Martin said. “We’ve spent a lot more and gotten a lot less.”