Guidance for Educators and School Staff in New York State
Immigrant communities are worried. The United States is facing one of the most anti-immigrant administrations in recent memory, and many students and families are panicked about the possibility of deportation and family separation. Educators and school staff can play a key role in providing crucial information and support to families and students. This document was prepared with the current context in mind, and will present some key tips for supporting undocumented and immigrant youth and families.
How can educators support undocumented students and their families?
Create open and welcoming environments
- Establish safe spaces that allow undocumented youth to share freely, engage with, and lead their peers
- Use terms like “undocumented” instead of “illegal”
- Do not inquire about a student’s immigration status. Youth may have legitimate fears about disclosing this information. If a youth discloses his or her immigration status, convey openness and an assurance of confidentiality in discussing the topic
- Ensure that all students have access to important information about the educational rights of undocumented youth
- Proactively address bullying or subtle forms of discrimination between peers, education personnel, and others; Review Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) materials and trainings
Build school staff capacity and knowledge about relevant immigration policies
- Research local, state, and federal policies and laws that affect immigrant students and their families
- Identify a school immigration liaison, a school staff member who can connect with immigrant advocacy organizations or community organizations to receive and share updates on immigration changes and resources
- Coordinate information sessions and/or trainings with trusted immigrant advocacy organizations
Share information and resources with youth and families
- Maintain updated information on local resources for students and families that includes mental health providers, social workers, pro-bono attorneys
- Provide students and families with information on their rights and advice on how to make a plan from trusted organizations
- Organize Know Your Rights and Immigration information sessions in partnership with immigrant advocacy organizations
Actively engage families and CBOs
- Be empathetic and build positive relationships with undocumented youth and their families.
- Encourage families to prepare for the possibility of deportation. Without creating panic, explain that they should have child care and an emergency plan in place if the parents are taken into immigration custody. Immigrant advocacy organizations can facilitate these conversations with parents.
- Engage families of undocumented youth by ensuring communications are in a language and format understandable to parents
- Be proactive and create frequent, flexible engagement opportunities for families
- Leverage the leadership of undocumented college students and the community to engage and support undocumented youth
Be an advocate beyond the classroom
- Work with your school board to pass a resolution affirming schools as welcoming places of learning for all students, distancing the schools from enforcement actions that separate families
- Make a public announcement or statement that the school supports immigrant students and share with families in relevant languages
- Join the marches and rallies supporting immigrant students, and call your legislators to demand policies that support immigrants.