In today’s political climate, educators have a duty to connect and engage with parents, especially parents of immigrant and refugee students. Those who are marginalized by the system as a result of their race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, and language, or a combination of those elements put together, need to know that they have a system of support to turn to in their classrooms, schools, and communities.
The current US administration’s Muslim travel ban, and deportation raids are impacting children and their families in schools and communities, leaving many to ask the question: What do I need to do to protect my kids?
According to the Washington Post, “The Los Angeles school board voted days after the November election to resist any Trump administration attempts to use student data against students or families in immigration matters”. Another Wisconsin school board sent letters home “advising parents to keep their doors shut, stay silent and refuse to sign anything if ICE agents visit their home”.
These reports are startling, and yet they’re very telling that many educators are putting the safety of the kids first when it comes to protecting them and providing them with their legal rights.
The Pew Research Center estimates 3.9 million school children had an unauthorized immigrant parent in 2014. About 725,000 of those children were unauthorized immigrants themselves. It’s so crucial that we place refugee and immigrant children at the heart of our care and focus on building a support system in school that protects and fights for their civil liberties.
“Know your rights, and rights of your school/district. Record and report any enforcement activity within your district policy of command and with local rights groups and the media” says Chris Lehman, founding director at The Educator Collaborative.
These raids, and more importantly, the inhumane treatment that immigrant and refugee children and their families have been subjected to is unacceptable. We have the responsibility to resist these orders by creating safe spaces in schools and classrooms.
One of the biggest challenges that parents of immigrants and refugees often face is the language and communication gap when it comes to technology, apps, and social media their children use. It’s important to also focus on helping parents and guardians identify techniques and methods to implement at home when it comes to their youth using technology.
When educators engage and support parents on different topics and issues that are relevant and meaningful to them, they are able to create avenues and pathways for learning to happen as a connected community. A community that shares their learning, failures, interests and growth together forms a bond and begins to act as a collective to meet the needs of all kids.
By providing accessible services to immigrant and refugee parents and guardians, schools would be creating a safe and participatory environment, wherein they can engage in their children’s education and find the support they need. Educators need to create and foster opportunities to open up dialogue and start a conversation with parents focused on their needs, and current situations. This will help to create empathy and understanding, and provide the necessary opportunities and tools to help students excel in the classroom and community.
Parents and guardians of immigrant and refugee students have so many external factors to hinder them from being completely focused and engaged in their children’s education, and while many of them try, they are ultimately focused on meeting their family’s basic needs, food and shelter. Schools and educators have a duty to create programs of outreach to meet the learning, emotional, and social needs of not only students but also their families as well. Because as many of us know, when students are happy and flourishing at home, they’re able to bring that success in the classroom as well.