BLOOMINGTON — Students worried about deportation or judgement based on their family’s citizenship were told they have nothing to fear while attending Bloomington District 87 schools.
The District 87 school board approved a resolution on Wednesday affirming the district as a welcoming and safe environment for all students, regardless of immigration status.
“The resolution doesn’t fundamentally do anything in terms of policies and procedures we already have in place, but it sends the clear message to students that you mean something to us and we care about how you’re feeling. We wanted to show in a very public way that we support you and we’ll do all we can to keep you safe,” said Superintendent Barry Reilly.
Reilly said there are “probably” students enrolled in District 87 who come from illegally immigrated families, but said he hopes the resolution will "alleviate any worries those students may be feeling" after recent changes to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
“This sends a message to the general community so those kids and their families know we have their back,” said Reilly. “The teacher in front of them in the classroom will be more important than anything we do here.”
The idea for the resolution was developed by a group of teachers who were approached by students who said they were afraid of deportation and being uprooted from their homes and schools.
Kim Taber, a teacher at Bloomington Junior High School, read comments from worried students to the board.
“I worry when I go home, I won’t see my parents and I’ll be left alone with my siblings,” Taber read from a student comment.
“It means a lot that the resolution was so strongly supported by the board,” said Taber after the meeting. “We want to see students feel successful in a country where they don’t often get that message. To hear it straight from the district is powerful.”
BJHS teacher Helen Brandon said students of immigrant families “often feel forgotten, devalued and an unwelcome member in the community.”
“We welcome you and care about you,” said Brandon.
“In a climate where outside voices are not always supportive and are sometimes frightening, we want to help kids hear, firmly, that they are wanted here with us at school,” added Julie Riley, BJHS teacher.
Gavin Nicoson, a freshman at Normal Community West High School, attended the District 87 meeting as a member of Not In Our School, a group against bullying and discrimination in schools.
“I feel that these issues and worries with students are more prevalent. I’m sure it’s hard for those students to go home where they are accepted and loved and then go to school where they are worried that people don’t accept them. This gives me hope,” said Nicoson.
McLean County Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel said the Normal-based district has discussed the resolution with District 87, particularly how the district partnered with teachers to develop the message.
“Unit 5 will begin a similar process and we expect it could result in a resolution as well,” said Daniel.