D97 explores resolution welcoming immigrants

District officials consider drafting a joint resolution with D200

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

During a regular meeting last month, District 97 school board members discussed a welcoming resolution that makes each school in the district a "safe and welcoming place for all children and families, regardless of immigration status," according to a memo by Supt. Carol Kelley.

The draft resolution Kelley presented at the Feb. 28 board meeting was based on a resolution written for Evanston Township High School District 202 and used as a template for officials with Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

Most of the resolution simply reinforces policies and procedures already practiced in D97, and in school districts throughout the state.

It states that no one formally employed, contracted by, or associated with the district can inquire about a student's or parent's immigration status or require them to produce documentation regarding their immigrant status.

"Being a welcoming community, we protect all of our students — period," said Kelley during the Feb. 28 meeting. "Our goal is for each student to feel a sense of belonging and to feel safe in all of our schools."

D97's introduction of a welcoming resolution came five days after officials with District 200 discussed a similar proposal at a Feb. 28 board meeting and less than a month after the village of Oak Park Board of Trustees unanimously passed a welcoming ordinance.

Since his election last November, President Donald Trump has called for more aggressive immigration enforcement efforts and has signed a series of executive orders empowering the federal government and local law enforcement bodies to be more aggressive in carrying out his orders. Trump has also called for federal funding to be cut from local governments that defy federal immigration orders.

During the Feb. 28 meeting, D97 officials emphasized that whatever resolution they consider passing needs to comply with the law while also ensuring that students, parents and families are protected from any instances of federal overreach or abuse.

"What this says is if [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] rings the doorbell and doesn't have a warrant, they can't just roam our halls and identify our kids," said D97 board member and attorney Holly Spurlock. "A random person can't come in and do some kind of random searches in our schools. They have to have a warrant. If they do have a warrant, it has to say, 'I'm here for this child.'"

District officials said that, even if an agent produces a warrant for a particular child, the document would then need to be vetted to ensure its authenticity and lawfulness. In addition, the district would take steps to make sure that the encounter doesn't frighten students.

But the process by which district officials formally greet ICE agents is just hypothetical, Spurlock said. Like D200, D97 doesn't have any protocols currently on record that deal with such an unprecedented situation.

Many D97 board members recommended that the district consider entering into a joint resolution with D200 and perhaps even District 90 in the interest of uniformity. D97 board President James Gates directed Kelley to allow attorneys for both D97 and D200 to review the proposed resolution and offer options for moving forward on a final draft to be put up for a vote at a later date.

D200 is expected to vote on a welcoming resolution of its own at a regular meeting on March 21. D97 officials said they could either vote on the same resolution as D200 or modify it to fit the elementary district's needs. 

Email: michael@oakpark.com

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