Some Austin teachers warned not to give students information on ICE


The school district’s attorneys cautioned educators not speak of controversial issues on campus

Some principals are forbidding teachers to distribute materials on how to respond to ICE raids

A handful of Austin district principals, after receiving an email from legal counsel, on Tuesday prohibited teachers or other campus staff from distributing materials to students detailing what to do if immigration enforcement officials show up at their homes or try to question them.

In a memo sent to principals Monday night, the district’s attorney spelled out limitations for educators:

“An 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 attorney also wrote that the same restrictions apply to district partner organizations, usually on campuses daily, such as Communities in Schools and Family Resource Centers.

Teachers at several campuses last week provided such information to students, as word spread of an immigration enforcement operation in Austin. Labor group Education Austin provided its 3,000 members with the various documents, including a United We Dream flier titled “What to do if ICE comes to your door,” referring to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Education Austin also hosted two “Know Your Rights” training sessions on immigration laws on Saturday that drew 250 educators.

Education Austin leaders disputed the legal advice of the school district’s attorneys, calling it a conservative interpretation of the law. The labor group plans to seek its own legal guidance on the issue. Preventing teachers from providing “information that supports their students,” only causes harm, said Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin.

Some immigrant parents withheld their children from school in recent days out of fear they, their children or family members may be detained by immigration enforcement officials. The labor group has been distributing information that says immigration enforcement actions generally do not occur at “sensitive locations,” including schools, unless someone poses an imminent threat.

“It’s real simple. Students are in crisis,” Zarifis said. “Where the students will turn to first outside of their household is their teacher and their school. If we don’t provide the information to them, we’re doing them a disservice. We believe it is a moral imperative to share this information with the families throughout this school district. We are still hopeful that the district will see this imperative and assist their families with knowledge and information. They need to be armed with the knowledge that will give them options and choices of what to do and how to protect their family.”

Pamphlets and fliers that had been placed in some campus offices were removed Monday and Tuesday, Zarifis said.

“They took any information down and told teachers not to disseminate information,” he said. “You have principals who are afraid because they’re being given a directive, even if they want to get information out.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Traffic report Oct. 23, 2107

Interstate 35 (Travis County): The southbound Airport Boulevard exit (No. 237A) will be closed throughout October; use the 51st Street exit or other route. The outside lane on the southbound access road will be closed between William Cannon Drive and the Slaughter Lane exit from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Alternating closures on the...
Community news: Austin seeking artist applicants

TRAVIS COUNTY AUSTIN City seeking artist applicants The city of Austin’s Art in Public Places program is seeking artist applications to be part of a prequalified public artist pool. Applications are due by 5 p.m. Nov. 27. The purpose of the pool is to provide a streamlined application and selection process for artists interested in being commissioned...
Body of small child discovered during search for missing 3-year-old 
Body of small child discovered during search for missing 3-year-old 

Authorities in Texas said Sunday they have discovered the body of a small child while searching for a 3-year-old who has been missing for several weeks, CNN reported. Sherin Mathews of Richardson, Texas, was reported missing on Oct. 7. She was last seen in the backyard of her family’s home by her adoptive father, Wesley Mathews, CNN...
Environmental groups join battle over CodeNext
Environmental groups join battle over CodeNext

Two environmental groups are stepping into the growing political ruckus surrounding CodeNext to promote a code that would increase density along major road corridors and in the city center. The recommendations come from the advocacy groups Environment Texas and Texas Public Interest Research Group, which will release a report Monday detailing environmental...
Texas Digest: Child’s body found near home of missing 3-year-old

NORTH TEXAS Child’s body found near missing girl’s home Police in the Dallas suburb of Richardson said Sunday that they’ve found the body of a small child not far from the home of a 3-year-old girl who’s been missing since earlier this month. Richardson police said the child’s body was discovered in a culvert as authorities...
More Stories