Safe Zone Schools
Safe Zone School Districts
A pragmatic approach to immigration is critical for our students – the center of our communities. All students should have the opportunity to learn without the fear and distress that results from harsh immigration enforcement. Educators are witnessing the impact of this trauma on our students, their families and our communities firsthand. Many school districts are making their campuses “safe zones” for immigrant students and communities. You can be part of this movement
Sample Safe Zone Resolution & Model Policy
It is the right of every child, regardless of immigration status, to access a free public K-12 education.
When federal immigration authorities aggressively pursue enforcement activities on or around school property and transportation routes — whether by surveillance, interviews, demands for information, arrest, detention, or any other means — it harmfully disrupts the learning environment and significantly interferes with the ability of all students, including U.S. citizen students and immigrant students legally in the country, to access a free public K-12 education.
NEA has developed sample resolution and district policy that can be used as a template or guidance for local school districts to create their own Safe Zones resolutions. The language is closely tied to the Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe which is the foundational precedent establishing that access to K-12 education is a civil right. The model resolution contains reassurances for students, procedures for law enforcement, and information and support for families and staff.Read More
Safe Zone & Immigration Advocacy Resources:
- Sample School Board Resolution & Policy on “Safe Zone” Immigration Safety
- All students are welcome. Make your school a safe zone
By NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, January 24, 2017
- Advisory for NEA Members Engaging in Immigration Advocacy
- Know Your Rights: Educators for Immigrant Youth webinar
A presentation from NEA and our partners at the National Immigration Law Center.
- MALDEF Immigrants’ Rights Frequently Asked Questions – English
- MALDEF Immigrants’ Rights Frequently Asked Questions – Spanish
FAQ: Safe Zone School Board Resolutions
1. What can we do to address student fear about aggressive immigration enforcement?
Join with your local NEA association to lobby your school board for a SAFE ZONE resolution. It contains reassurances for students, procedures for responding to law enforcement, and information and support for families and staff. Countless school districts across the country have already passed SAFE ZONE resolutions. These districts include large urban districts like Los Angeles, to small rural districts in Colorado and New Hampshire, and everywhere in between, such as Omaha, Nebraska, and Louisville, Kentucky.
2. What needs to take place in order for our district to become a SAFE ZONE?
Your school board can take up a proposed resolution like the one attached here at its next regularly scheduled meeting. Supply your school board with sample language and be sure to comply with the board’s meeting notice requirements. Through the board’s normal governance procedure, it can approve and sign a SAFE ZONE resolution, including a policy that would then take effect immediately.Read More
3. Does a SAFE ZONE resolution require additional district expenditures, staff responsibilities, school hours, or other resources?
No, unless you wish to add support beyond NEA’s template, such as adding a counselor for extra support for immigrant students who are in crisis. The template SAFE ZONE resolution reaffirms and clarifies the constitutional right all students have, regardless of immigration status, to access a free public K-12 education. The district administration will need to take steps to ensure the resolution’s requirements are being fulfilled as outlined in the district policy attached to the NEA template SAFE ZONE board resolution, but it does not add new or different job duties or hours for educators
4. Can I discuss immigration enforcement and student fears in my classroom?
Yes, if your school board passes a SAFE ZONE resolution that provides for such discussion, the discussion is age appropriate and mandatory curricular subjects are also covered in a timely way. The productivity of the learning environment improves when pressing concerns of students can be addressed. In the absence of a SAFE ZONE resolution, NEA recommends you follow existing district rules on classroom teaching.
5. Can I refuse directives from law enforcement?
No, a SAFE ZONE resolution does not provide immunity should you decline to obey directives from law enforcement. The resolution does provide steps you should request that law enforcement follow. If law enforcement refuses to cooperate, that becomes a matter for district legal counsel and courts to determine. You are not expected to put yourself or those around you at risk to assert these rights.
6. Does the model SAFE ZONE resolution protect non-citizen students from the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline?
No, SAFE ZONE policies like the one attached here are aimed at protecting students’ rights at school but do not address disciplinary practices that criminalize misbehavior through the involvement of law enforcement. In the case of non-citizen youth, law enforcement actions can result in barriers to obtaining or maintaining legal immigration status as well as possible detention and deportation. For information regarding the harmful immigration consequences for non-citizen youth of the school-to-prison pipeline, click here. And for additional resources on stopping the school-to-prison pipeline visit the NEA EdJustice website and sign the petition to shut down the pipeline.
Want to print this FAQ out as a 1-page document? Click here to download the PDF.
Put your school district on the map!
Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Omaha, Miami, Nashville, Pittsburgh… these are just a few of the scores of cities and communities across the country where school districts have passed their own safe zone resolutions.
Click on the map below to see where school districts have passed or are considering Safe Zones policies to protect our immigrant students!
Media Coverage of Safe Zone Proposals:
- East Aurora schools urged to be immigration ‘safe zone’
Chicago Tribune, Januuary 18, 2018
- New California laws ensure schools remain safe spaces for students and parents — regardless of immigration status
The74Million.org, December 27, 2017
- What it means when a school district declares itself a ‘safe haven’ or ‘sanctuary’: a quick guide
EdSource, August 17, 2017
- Toledo Public Schools designate campuses as “safe zones”
Toledo Blade, November 28, 2017
- Riverside schools declare safe learning zone; ‘immigration is not our business,’ board member says
The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.), September 23, 2017
- Metro Schools will be ‘safe zones’ for immigrant students
The Tennesean, March 3, 2017
Schools on front lines in nationwide movement to protect undocumented students
Across the country, more and more communities concerned about the impact of harsh rhetoric and hardline immigration policies on their students are mobilizing and organizing campaigns to declare school campuses “safe zones” for immigrant students.
While large cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York led the first wave of the movement with school board resolutions, city council legislation, and public statements of support, mid-size and smaller school districts—from Montgomery County, Maryland, to Roaring Fork, Colorado—have followed suit.
In Nebraska, Library Science Teacher Ed Ventura worked with the Omaha Public Schools (OPS) board and his colleagues to help craft resolution language modeled on the NEA’s draft resolution. The resolution passed in February 2017.
“Our students are scared, not just our refugee students, but all students of color are scared. Period,” said Ventura. “It is our job to make sure our most vulnerable students feel safe, supported and in a place where they can learn. We all watch the news and see the hateful rhetoric and actions and frankly, it’s scary. That is why I worked with our school board on this resolution.”Read More
In April 2017, the Milwaukee School Board unanimously passed a resolution declaring the district a safe haven for students and families threatened by deportation and vowing to oppose the actions of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents “by all legal means available.”
In Las Cruces, New Mexico, educators, school board members, NEA-LC leaders, and the superintendent worked together to pass a “Safe Zones” resolution, which included recommendations such as, “Identifying a bilingual person at each school who can serve as the immigration resource advocate in the building, working with parents to develop an immigration raid emergency plan, and providing counseling for students who have had a family member detained by ICE.” The resolution passed unanimously at an April 2017 board meeting and received widespread community support.
- Teachers Rally Around Undocumented Students
Education Week, March 6, 2018
- 35 years later, court ruling still inspires educators to safeguard access for all students
NEA EdJustice, June 15, 2017
- Student-led campaign inspires school board to pass strong ‘Safe Zone’ resolution
NEA EdJustice, April 7, 2017
- After frightening ICE raid, educators and new school board join forces to protect all of their students
NEA EdJustice, April 30 2017
- Immigrant families turning to trusted educators as fears rise
NEA EdJustice, February 27, 2017
- Five questions educators are asking about ICE raids and supporting immigrant youth
NEA EdJustice, February 21, 2017
Building Power in Our Communities
Ready to get active and be the superhero our students deserve in the fight for racial, social and economic justice in public education? Then join the NEA EdJustice League!
Know Your Rights
Educators enjoy 1st Amendment protections, but they are strongest when engaging in activism outside of work. Click below to download the advisory for NEA members engaging in immigration advocacy.
This NEA presentation — "Supporting Immigrant Students & Families: Training for Educators" — was adapted from Education Austin’s series of Know Your Rights trainings for educators.
Tools for Educators
All students have a right to enroll in U.S. public schools, regardless of immigration status. Whether you’re an educator, a student or a family member of a Dreamer, it’s vital to know your rights.