Fairfax Co. school board votes to make immigrant families feel safer

Following a path set by the county government, the Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously to enact a trust policy, which means Virginia’s largest school district will not voluntarily share information about the status of students and their families with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“As a school system, we must be fully committed to providing a high caliber education, regardless of the immigration status of our students and their guardians,” said Board Member Karl Frish, who represents the Providence District. “FCPS (Fairfax County Public Schools) has so many opportunities to offer. Yet we haven’t been able to reach some of the most vulnerable community members in Fairfax County because of a lack of trust.”

Frish was among the board members who received numerous messages from families who were afraid to allow their children to be more involved in school or who, themselves, didn’t get more involved because they’re afraid of their status being disclosed and their families being torn apart.

“We want you and your families to feel safe and included,” Board Member Tamara Derenak Kaufax said to the audience.

“We want parents and family members who come to our schools, to volunteer, to see your children and your family members in the extracurricular activities that they participate in, and know that you are safe and welcome members of our FCPS family,” the Lee District representative said.

While Fairfax County Public Schools already had guidelines against sharing information with Immigrations and Custom Enforcement, this policy also will provide training to teachers, staff and school police officers on the policy. It will allow disciplinary measures against those who violate the policy.

“Our schools are safe places for our children,” said Board Member Karen Corbett Sanders of the Mount Vernon District. “But if somebody fears about the safety of a place in which their children study, and they fear for their own personal safety, by walking into that building and being able to volunteer in that building, then we have a failure of trust.”

While the policy was passed at the Thursday meeting, it won’t go into effect immediately.

The board directed the superintendent to implement as much of the school trust policy as possible for the 2022 summer school session, and then to make sure the entire policy can be implemented for the start of the 2022-2023 school year in the fall.

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Michelle Murillo

Michelle Murillo has been a part of the WTOP family since 2014. She started her career in Central Florida before working in radio in New York City and Philadelphia.

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