The head of Oregon’s education agency told school district leaders Thursday that federal immigration authorities should not confront parents at bus stops.
Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill argued that the federal agency's recent arrest of a parent at a bus stop was "unsafe… traumatic…and is counter to our shared values for schools and the children we serve in Oregon." Gill made the comments in a message sent to superintendents throughout the state Thursday, offering guidance in the wake of the arrest last week of a parent in the Tigard-Tualatin School District.
“ODE considers bus stops an extension of our school system,” Gill said in his email. “Like our classrooms, gyms, cafeterias, hallways, busses and ballfields – bus stops should be safe, inclusive, and welcoming for all students, families, staff, and community members.”
Gill said the arrest of the parent was “clearly traumatic” for the family, “but also for every student on the bus witnessing this event.”
Gill called for district and school personnel to understand Oregon’s sanctuary law, Oregon’s Privacy Protection Bill and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.
FERPA prohibits schools from sharing personal student information, including where they live, without the parents’ permission.
School districts are echoing Gill’s guidance, including Salem-Keizer Public Schools, Oregon’s second-largest district with a large immigrant community. Spokesperson Lillian Govus emphasized the need for school staff to know the rules, and the rights that students and families have.
“Any school district and any school district employee needs to be intimately familiar with FERPA regulations and what can and cannot be released,” Govus said.
Guidelines OPB received from one school district advised school staff to immediately receive legal counsel and notify the student’s parents before an ICE officer receives access to detaining a student. Without a warrant, non-local law enforcement officials such as ICE don’t have the authority to remove a student from school.
Oregon law prohibits government entities such as schools from helping arrest undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed other crimes.
ICE is defending its arrest of the parent, according to reporting by the Portland Tribune. ICE has said it has a list of places it avoids, which includes bus stops that are "known," or clearly marked.
"The location of [the] traffic stop and subsequent arrest did not occur at a known marked school bus stop or a location that was previously known to the officers," ICE spokesperson Tanya Roman said, according to the Tribune.
School bus stops in Oregon are frequently unmarked and identified mainly to students and parents to protect children's safety.
ODE said it does not know if ICE plans any more arrests or confrontations at school drop-off and pick-up sites, or any other school-sponsored or school-related activities.
“These new issues faced by our families present new challenges for our stretched system, but as educators we always put children at the center of our work,” Gill said in his email.
“I know we will strive to serve every child in each of our communities across Oregon.”