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Dallas, Ft. Worth Schools Join ‘Sanctuary’ Trend

The school districts of Dallas and Fort Worth are the latest in Texas to draft “sanctuary” policies, pledging to make their campuses safe spaces for migrant students and their families, even though federal law already protects them in public schools.

Last Thursday, the board of trustees at the Dallas Independent School District voted 9-0 to designate its 227 campuses as “welcoming and protective to the fullest extent of the law.” In a two-page resolution, the school board embraced “the diversity of our students and families and the rich language and cultural assets they bring…”

The document committed to “providing a learning environment that facilitates the physical safety and emotional well-being of all students” regardless of “immigration status, ethnicity, national origin, language, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability, or socioeconomic status.”

The resolution also directs Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa “to ensure that the district ensures” these non-citizen students know about “opportunities to gain access to college, in-state tuition, financial aid, scholarships, internships, and career opportunities, regardless of their immigration status.”

While the resolution touts its anti-discrimination policies prohibit harassment, intimidation and “offensive educational environment,” and recognizes the need for “a safe and civil” setting to attain high academic standards and “healthy human relationships,” it also takes a cautious tone. Dallas ISD states it holds “no authority or role in determining the immigration status of any of its students or families or enforcing federal immigration laws.” Ultimately, nothing in the resolution “shall be construed to require an employee or agent of” Dallas ISD to violate federal or state law.

The resolution asserted “increasing instances” of students “expressing anxiety and fear of them or their family members being deported” as the impetus behind their sanctuary stance.

Dallas ISD is the second largest school district in Texas and the 14th largest in the nation. The district’s website shows nearly 60 percent of its roughly 160,000 students are Hispanic. In 2015-16, Dallas ISD reported 117,476 out of its total 158,693 students, or 70 percent, as Hispanic.

More than 23,000 of the district’s students were absent during the February 16 “Day Without Immigrants.” Illegal alien students were encouraged to stay home from school, according to KDFW. The next day, a smaller group of Dallas ISD high schoolers cut classes to protest against recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. In those operations officials arrested violent criminals and people who sexually assaulted children. KDFW reported some students said their teachers encouraged them to demonstrate.

On Tuesday, February 28, Fort Worth ISD board of trustees will vote to designate their campuses as “welcoming and safe” and “foster a culture of trust and respect,” at schools “free of insecurity and fear” for its “employees, students, and their families, regardless of their immigration status.”

More than 54,200, or 62.5 percent, of Fort Worth ISD’s total 86,000-plus enrolled students identified as Hispanic in the 2015-16 school year. On the “Day Without Immigrants,” the district accounted for nearly 15,200 absent students, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Besides Dallas and Fort Worth, school boards at Austin ISD, Houston ISD, and El Paso ISD adopted sanctuary policies; however, federal law already protects these children. The Fort Worth ISD resolution acknowledges this key provision, Plyler v. Doe, a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling wherein “all children are entitled to a public education regardless of their immigration status or the status of their parents.”

In the ruling, the court struck down a 1975 Texas statute that withheld state funds from educating children who were not legally admitted into the U.S., denying them enrollment into public schools unless their parents paid tuition to compensate for lost tax dollars associated with educating these minors. The court determined the statute violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, reasoning these youngsters had protection from discrimination unless Texas could show a substantial state interest for the regulation.

Likewise, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a program of the U.S. Education Department, prevents schools from turning over student immigration status to federal agents, as Breitbart Texas reported.

Earlier in February, the Texas Senate passed SB 4, a priority bill which seeks to end the state’s sanctuary policies. That bill moved onto the state’s House of Representatives.

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.

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