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Memo rattles AISD schools

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

On Tuesday, an Austin Independent School District memo had district principals scrambling, with some warning their teachers not to hand out Immigration and Customs Enforcement fliers, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Today, the AISD board of trustees is expected to tackle the issue head-on at its Board Operations Committee meeting, in an attempt to get a clearer read on official policy. Trustees, who have a separate legal counsel than the district, were not informed about the memo in advance. Trustee Paul Saldaña told the Austin Monitor that he was “surprised” by its content and noted that it seemed counter to an Education Austin ICE training for teachers held last week, for example. He expressed hope that today’s meeting would help forward a clearer, more consistent policy for everyone.

“A lot of people forget that in 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for states to deny access to public education to students or families based on immigration status,” he said. “That means, as a district, we are legally required to educate and support every child that walks into our school.” Saldaña also told the Monitor that he plans to bring forward a resolution supporting the inclusive community of AISD with co-sponsors Jayme Mathias and Ann Teich and hopes it will be on the board’s Feb. 27 agenda.

A spokesperson for the district explained that the memo was “just something that goes out once in while” to “update staff on information they need to know.” That memo, embedded below, includes the statement that “employee, staff member, teacher, or administrator may not speak to political affiliation, views, protests, advocacy, or other controversial issues or topics that may arise while on District property, whether that is in a classroom or in an Administrative building, working as a District employee, or using District resources. The very narrow but permissible exception is recognized in the event that the discussion of these issues is necessary for the complete education of our students so long as the information is presented in a non-partisan and neutral manner.” It also asks staff to refrain from reproducing and distributing third-party resources in class.

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