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Oregon Schools Prepare For Possible ICE Visits

Portland's Cleveland High School hangs a message of welcoming, as students return from the Veterans Day break, Nov. 14, 2016.

Portland’s Cleveland High School hangs a message of welcoming, as students return from the Veterans Day break, Nov. 14, 2016.

Rob Manning/OPB

Oregon school districts are crafting guidelines for teachers and office staff in the event officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement show up at Oregon public schools, looking for students, families or information.

Several districts, including Portland Public Schools, David Douglas and North Clackamas confirmed to OPB they’re drafting advice on how to respond to immigration officers, should they come knocking.     

Statewide school organizations have weighed in recently. The Confederation of Oregon School Administrators hosted a discussion Saturday with a Portland-area law firm, with potential federal immigration enforcement as one of the key issues. The Oregon School Boards Association has drafted a frequently-asked questions page on the topic as well.

Guidelines OPB received anonymously from one district advise staff at school buildings not release any information. The guidelines said teachers and support staff should involve principals and district administrators right away. And at the district level, officials are advised to request credentials and demand the reason and legal support for the request.

That response is consistent with how central office staff at the North Clackamas School District have handled information requests in the past, according to spokesperson Cindy Quintanilla. She said the district regularly declines requests for student information — even alerting families if requests come in through legal action, like subpoenas.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act — or FERPA — also prohibits schools from sharing personal student information without the family’s permission. FERPA rules cover everything from where children go to school, to grades, attendance information and where a child lives. School officials can also point to a 35-year-old U.S. Supreme Court decision (Plyler v. Doe), which basically ruled immigration status is not relevant to a child’s right to an education, and is therefore not information that a school district is required to collect.

Federal education officials have said districts can collect additional information, such as student Social Security numbers, but they can not condition a student’s education on whether the family provides that information.

Oregon law prohibits government entities, like schools, from helping apprehend undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed other crimes.

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