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School system reassures immigrant families fearful of being deported

26 Feb

The superintendent of Arlington Public Schools is seeking to reassure immigrant families who are afraid to send their children to school amid threats of deportation.

“Teachers, administrators and Board members have heard reports that some families in our community are fearful to send their children to school,” Superintendent Patrick K. Murphy wrote on Wednesday in a letter to families. “I want to reassure all of our families that children in our care will be safe.”

Murphy’s statement comes after Kevin Maxwell, chief of schools in nearby Prince George’s County, Md., spoke out against federal immigration raids in January. Prince George’s school officials said that attendance among Latino students dropped as parents kept their children home from school because they feared it could lead to their deportation.

“I am deeply troubled by the fear and uncertainty that exists in so many of our school communities as a result of the actions of the Department of Homeland Security,” Maxwell said in his January statement. “We urge federal authorities to see schools and other public gathering places as areas where no enforcement activities should take place and ask them to strongly consider the devastating impacts of their actions on the academic, social and emotional well-being of all of our students.”

Arlington officials said it’s hard to gauge the impact of fear on attendance in the middle of flu season, when many students in the Northern Virginia county are missing class because of illnesses. But people working with children in schools know that families are concerned, they said.

Here is Murphy’s full letter to families:

Dear APS Families and Staff,

I have been concerned by recent news reports about raids to deport adults and children who have fled violence in Central America and recently migrated to the United States. Because of these actions by members of the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, Arlington Public Schools’ (APS) teachers, administrators and Board members have heard reports that some families in our community are fearful to send their children to school. I want to reassure all of our families that children in our care will be safe.

APS is committed to providing an excellent public education to every school-aged student residing in Arlington County. In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools may not deny access to any child, whether present in the United States legally or otherwise. More recently in May 2014, the Secretary of Education and Attorney General reaffirmed this ruling and provided guidance to all public school leaders to ensure public school access for all children, regardless of their immigration status.

As educators, the staff of Arlington Public Schools has always acknowledged our legal and, more importantly, our moral obligations to provide an education to all students who live in our community. The School Board’s Vision statement reaffirms our commitment to all children by affirming that we are, “a diverse and inclusive school community, committed to academic excellence and integrity. We provide instruction in a caring, safe and healthy learning environment, responsive to each student, in collaboration with families and the community.” In addition, the School Board has adopted as one of our Core Values to “value all students, staff and families in our diverse, inclusive school community.”

All of us are deeply committed to providing instruction in a caring, safe and healthy learning environment that is responsive to each student.

We believe that the diversity of Arlington County is one of our community’s most significant assets, and we value and will continue to support all of our students and families.


Dr. Patrick K. Murphy
Arlington Public Schools