Dallas parents and educators fight for a new, clearer policy


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The May 24th DISD school board meeting was held at the Dallas County Schools office.
(Image: Rachel Hawkins / NDG)

By Rachel Hawkins, NDG Staff Writer

Concerned citizens spoke out at the recent the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) school board meeting on May 24 to express their reservations regarding recent changes related to immigrant students. They believe the policy developed with good intentions, is unclear and may lead to unintended consequences.

“ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has no place in our schools, and DISD officers have no business collaborating with ICE,” Leila McNeil, a former violence prevention educator for schools across DISD said.

In February 2018, the Dallas school board passed a resolution that stated: “Every DISD campus must be designated as a welcoming and protective of all students and their families.”

“Our belief, that at the time this was a heartfelt sentiment and would guide policies and attitudes throughout the district,” Mahlon Hight, Minister of Congregational Life at Northaven United Methodist Church, and former DISD teacher said. “We were then surprised to learn that the policy of the Dallas ISD Police Department is so broad that it is inconsistent and in some cases, it counters to your welcoming resolution.

Hight also said recent attempts were made to adjust the police policy, but the changes did not include any input from teachers, parents, or the community.

Several speakers voiced their support for Faith in Texas and Texas Immigration Coalition’s call for a meeting with the DISD police chief, teachers, and community members to develop a new clearer policy.

“I’m here to ask for an improve policy that does three things,” McNeil said. ‘A policy that prevents DISD police officers from asking about immigration status prevents DISD police officers from corroborating with federal immigration agencies, and prevents DISD police from exchanging information with ICE unless otherwise required by law.”

While the parents are grateful the policy has been changed; they feel it still does not go far enough. The current policy still allows officers to ask students and parents about their immigration status, and it allows officials to assist ICE.

McNeil spoke about her former role as a violence prevention educator and how she often encountered students in a crisis having experienced trauma at home, either as a victim or a witness to violence.

“Many of these students exposed abuse to me as immigrants and several of them were undocumented or had family members who were,” McNeil said. She shared how the students shared with her details about the violence they suffered.

“They felt trapped in the violence and unable to report to law enforcement or tell their teachers because they were afraid of deportation. Their fear is not without precedent as they see families across the U.S. being separated over immigration status.”

McNeil emphasized the importance of students being able to trust their teachers, administrators, and campus officers enough to come forward about abuse.