Orleans Parish protects undocumented students, scrutinizes police interactions

Jordan Hall, Staff Writer

Exactly one month after voting to allow undocumented immigrants to attend Orleans Parish schools, the school board has voted subsequently to protect its students further by scrutinizing police interactions in the classroom. This decision is in the best interest of Orleans Parish students, and the school board was right to protect them.

Police presence in schools has grown in the years following prominent school shootings such as those at Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary. In recent years, however, tensions between students and law enforcement officers have risen, culminating in efforts to restrict police access to school children. With the school board’s recent decision, both local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers will be required to obtain a warrant to enter school grounds, access records or speak to students.

Members of the Latinx rights group “Our Voice/Nuestra Voz” worked with the Orleans Parish School Board to draft the new motion. The group was founded in December of 2014 by Mary Moran and Henry Jones. Their aim was to foster relationships between Latinx parents and the Orleans Parish schools.

Many may remember the 2015 video of a Spring Valley High student being violently removed from a classroom by Officer Ben Fields. It is worth noting that Fields was a “student resource officer” employed specifically by the school district, and he was fired following the arrest. This incident, however, sparked conversations nationwide about the presence of police in public schools.

The announcement of the decision to restrict police presence in schools also comes on the heels of a statement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions detailing President Trump’s plan to roll back Obama-era policies limiting police access to military-grade weapons.  These programs were created after the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, and the emergence of militarized police forces. Trump, however, is following through on his campaign promise to reverse the policy.

With conflicts escalating, the Orleans Parish School Board decision is a necessary action and had several backers in the community. In addition to “Our Voices/Nuestra Voz,” the “Choice Foundation” also voiced its support.

“We know that those children often come to us with a lot of anxiety about moving to a new country, about living in a new city,” Mickey Landry, executive director of the Choice Foundation, said in an interview with the Times-Picayune. “We do whatever we can to make them feel welcome.”

Landry is referencing the extra stipulations in the policy which apply solely to ICE agents. Principals must immediately contact Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. and the school’s legal counsel for guidance before granting any ICE agents access to the school. Those involved are optimistic this will be a positive change for students by curbing classroom “distractions,” contributing to a welcoming learning environment.

As residents of an incredibly diverse city like New Orleans, it is our responsibility to embody the message of this ruling by fostering a hospitable environment for all students, whether they are a part of the Tulane community or otherwise.

This is an opinion and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Jordan is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected].

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