The Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Education has joined the national movement to affirm a commitment to diversity and safety in response to the rhetoric of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
Members of the board on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution affirming the board’s “commitment to ensure that our schools are equitable and safe” for all students.
The resolution, which doesn’t mention Trump by name, states that “national events may have caused uncertainty and some level of anxiety for many families in our community.”
“… we recognize that our mission is more critical than ever because we believe that education can be the bridge to understanding our differences and can bring us together around respect and understanding, rather than fear,” the resolution states. “… it is the goal and commitment of the District to cultivate a safe and supportive learning environment for all, to embrace and value our diversity, and to act quickly to prevent and address any and all issues of discrimination and harassment in our schools.”
The board, the resolution states, “will continue to take any and all actions authorized by law and District policies to provide equal opportunities and safe learning environments for all of our students.” The resolution mentions the fact that all children in the United States “are entitled to a public education regardless of their immigration status or the status of their parents.”
Immigrants have been of particular concern to many because of Trump’s rhetoric. He has pledged to rescind outgoing President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, though he waffled on that pledge this week. Trump has threatened to cut federal funding for cities that shelter immigrants without legal status. He has committed to deporting millions.
There have been some incidents of violence, threats and intimidation in schools since Trump’s election, including kids in a middle school in Michigan chanting “build the wall” — apparently directed at Latino students — at lunch.
The community organizing group New Mexico Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé) on Wednesday praised the Las Cruces school board’s action.
“Right now, many families in our community feel targeted by President-elect Trump’s policies and rhetoric,” said Sara Melton, an organizer for CAFé. “The Board of Education’s action demonstrates support and commitment to vulnerable children and families in our community.”
The Las Cruces schools join others in New Mexico and elsewhere in affirming a commitment to all students. In Albuquerque, the superintendent wrote a letter urging district staff to be “particularly mindful of students’ feelings right now – especially in our most vulnerable communities – as a result of the tensions and deep divisions we continue to experience as a nation.”
The superintendent in Santa Fe has rolled out an action plan that includes a hotline for reporting bullying and harassment. And the school board there has gone further than the board in Las Cruces by declaring the schools in Santa Fe a “sanctuary school district” — meaning the district will instruct staff to not cooperate with federal immigration officials and won’t share student information with immigration officials.
CAFé called on other area government agencies in Southern New Mexico, including the Las Cruces City Council, Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners, and city and county law enforcement, to pass resolutions like the Las Cruces school board’s, and to “use their power to protect and stand with families of color and others targeted by President-Elect Trump.” CAFé made the same request of New Mexico State University Chancellor Garrey Carruthers.
In response to a petition asking NMSU to declare itself a sanctuary campus, Carruthers wrote a memo last week stating that NMSU has several policies to promote diversity and inclusivity. NMSU doesn’t require proof of citizenship for admission or discriminate on the basis of immigration status. The university doesn’t disclose student information without consent or unless required by law. NMSU offers in-state tuition and state-funded financial aid to “qualifying undocumented students” and discounted tuition to students from Mexico.
But Carruthers rejected requests from a group organizing the petition to declare NMSU a sanctuary campus, ban federal immigration officials from NMSU property, and formally urge the federal government to provide students who have DACA a path to permanent legal status. He said banning federal law enforcement agents could threaten NMSU’s funding.
“While each member of the NMSU community is free to advocate their individual views, our public institution is a governmental entity that respects the diversity of opinion and will not declare itself a sanctuary or otherwise take a position on this or the many other important and difficult issues facing our country that do not directly involve NMSU operations,” Carruthers wrote.
Disclosure: NMPolitics.net editor and publisher Heath Haussamen, who wrote this article, is dating CAFé executive director Sarah Silva. Read about how NMPolitics.net handles articles that involve CAFé here.