Shawnee Mission School District explains immigration resolution

Posted at 6:30 PM, Apr 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-25 19:30:29-04

At the board meeting Monday night, the Shawnee Mission School District announced a resolution that immigration officials must come to the superintendent’s office first before entering a school or district building. 

"That gives us the opportunity and time to stabilize the event, to plan a reaction to it, to be able to plan for students' best well-being," Officer John Douglass told 41 Action News.

Douglass is the executive director of the district's Emergency Services department.

The district already has a policy in place that bars ICE agents from coming to schools without a warrant or parent permission. So why issue a resolution now? 

"The public contacted us and wanted to have an official stance and something we can say, that our schools are safe and inviting places, that they are protected," Douglass said. 

The resolution is also a response to an incident in February that the district said was misconstrued. Douglass and ICE officials want to clear it up. 

"ICE agents have never been to any of our schools," Douglass said. 

In February, Prairie Village police picked up a 9-year-old boy from class at Briarwood Elementary because ICE had detained his parents. If both parents are not able to pick their child up, it's standard procedure to take the child to the Division of Child and Family Services if no other approved adult is around. 

The district said rumors spread that ICE agents arrested the boy. His mother, whom ICE agents later released, said the incident caused her family extreme trauma. 

ICE said it had nothing to do with that incident. The agency enacted a policy in 2011 that states its agents will stay away from sensitive locations like schools and churches. 

41 Action News reached out to ICE representatives, who said: "The notion of a school district forming a policy to this effect is a non-issue, as it addresses a scenario that does not exist. ICE does not conduct law enforcement in schools."

But after the February incident, confusion was still there. 

"We had families that didn't want to take their kids to school. They thought it was really more important for them to keep them at home and feel safe. That's not what we want for our community," El Centro Executive Director Irene Caudillo said. 

El Centro consulted with the district on the resolution, so families who may be undocumented will trust their kids are taken care of. 

"You have teachers that are not sure what to do, and you have kids who see this and think the worst. It's not about immigration and deportation in the eyes of those people, it's about that child being taken away by a policeman and done something wrong. How do you explain that?" Caudillo said. 

The district does not ask for nor requires immigration status of any student. 

"Our children need to be able to study and participate, and feel warm and fuzzy. They don't need to be worrying about the kinds of things that adults are trying to sort out right now," Douglass said. 

Read the district's resolution here:$file/Resolution.pdf