On Wednesday, March 8, Fresno Unified School District unanimously passed the “Safe Place School District” policy, to make schools safe for undocumented youth and their families. ICE agents will not be able to enter school district property unless specifically required by law.
A youth leader from our Boys and Men of Color Program, Neng Thao, said in public comment, “Many of Edison’s students are immigrants or have parents who are immigrants, very much like myself. Students and families should not have to feel as if they are being targeted for deportation, especially within school boundaries. My school is a place where I feel safe from fear and intimidation and a place where I can get a good education, and it should stay that way for me and every single student.”
Fresno Boys and Men of Color youth leaders, Efrain Botello, Neng Thao, and Kieshaun White were amongst a number of youth and residents who spoke in favor of a safe schools resolution. Many others were in attendance, too. The board room overflowed with youth, parents, and community members. Those who could not fit in the board room followed the meeting from the packed lobby.
The Fresno Unified School District’s Board of Education joined over 25 other school districts across California in the declaration that schools are a safe place for students, families, and the community. The resolution “declares that every Fresno Unified School District site is a safe place for its students and families to seek help, assistance and information if faced with fear and anxiety about any safety concern, including enforcement of immigration laws.” The district will not allow or work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to operate on school campuses and would work with community-based organizations to education students and families about their rights. The Board voted 7-0, passing the resolution to a roar of cheers and applause. No one in attendance spoke in opposition.
Led by the Fresno Building Healthy Communities Schools Action Team, our youth leaders spoke about how it important it was their younger siblings and cousins not witness a traumatizing immigration raid; how their refugee family’s immigration experience is connected to students and families who live in fear of deportation today; and how unfair that undocumented children were being targeted because they didn’t choose where they were born. For all three, it was the first time they had spoken before a publicly elected decision-making body. They were not alone as they were supported by more than 30 of their brothers and adult allies who were in attendance.
Read youth leader Neng Thao’s complete public comment:
Good evening President Ashjian and Board Members. My name is Neng Thao. I live in Trustee Area 6 and I go to Edison High School. I am here with my brothers from Fresno Boys and Men of Color in support of the Safe School Resolution. What makes Edison so special is its diversity. Many of Edison’s students are immigrants or have parents who are immigrants, very much like myself. My family came here to the United States of America in 1996 as refugee of the Vietnam War. My older brother and I were the only two to be born here in America. My parents and nine of my older siblings were born in another country. Even so, all of us have made a life here. We’re happy and proud to say that America is our home.
Students and families should not have to feel as if they are being targeted for deportation, especially within school boundaries. My school is a place where I feel safe from fear and intimidation and a place where I can get a good education, and it should stay that way for me and every single student. That is why I’m here with my brothers to ask you all to consider how an immigration raid within school boundaries would seriously harm students and families. Whether it is seeing a friend, a brother, a sister, or even parents get snatched at school, how traumatizing would this be, because no one wants to lose a person they care for and be separated from them. I know that if I were to come home one day and my parents or siblings were no longer there, I would feel unbearable pain and carry this trauma for the rest of my life. So my brothers and I standing here at this moment, we look forward to seeing you all pass this resolution to make schools safe for students and families. Thank you all for your time, for taking up your support of this resolution, and for all you do for our students and families.
Read youth leader Efrain Botello’s complete public comment:
Good evening President Ashjian (ashe-gen) and Board Members. My name is Efrain Botello. I live in Trustee Area 2 and graduated from Roosevelt High School in 2015. I’ve lived in Fresno and attended Fresno schools all my life. Today, I am here with Fresno Boys and Men of Color in support of the Safe School Resolution. From what I witness in my community, the obstacles we face everyday are tough enough, so introducing another obstacle, like the fear of ICE into schools would be a shame. SCHOOLS SHOULD BE A SAFE PLACE FOR EVERYONE. Schools are a place to learn and grow. As students, every day we leave our house in the morning in hopes of learning and coming back home to our loved ones. My younger sister and cousins—who were all born here in Fresno—attend Fresno Unified schools now. I can’t imagine how traumatic it would be for them to possibly witness a classmate or close friend being taken away when all they wanted was an education. Keep our students safe from fear and discrimination. Keep schools safe. Lastly, I want to thank the board and the district for helping me feel safe during my time at Fresno Unified, and I ask that you all do the same for my sister and cousins and all students and families.
Additional news coverage:
See the sound bite from youth leader Kieshaun White below!
Read the entire Safe Place policy here: