The Palm Beach County Superintendent, Robert Avossa, spoke out on Wednesday in hopes to calm the fears of many undocumented families, reassuring everyone that schools in the area are a safe zone for all students.
“Unfortunately the political climate has caused a lot of rumors and misinformation,” Avossa said.
The district sent out a letter to parents in several different languages, reassuring them that schools continue to provide students with a safe environment.
“The school never shares directory information,” Avossa said. “No person can come in and say: ‘I’d like to know who the students are and what their nationalities are.’ We’re not allowed to do that.”
Florida’s public schools are not permitted to ask families about their immigration status.
For Jessica Lopez, an undocumented immigrant who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years, the letter was reassuring, but she said she and her four children live in constant fear of deportation.
“My kids are scared,” Lopez said. “Every time they see the police they say it’s immigration.”
Lopez doesn’t want to keep her children from school but many other parents are out of fear of immigration raids.
She said even if the schools are safe, she still needs to get her children to school and the drive to school scares her.
“We’re driving maybe when we’re going to the school they can catch us with the kids,” Lopez said.
Her biggest fear is to be separated from her children.
“What mother wants to be separated from their children?” She said under tears. “It’s very, very sad and very, very hard.”
Several school districts across the country have come forward in support of undocumented students. In Florida, in addition to Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade have also announced they’re safe zones.
Read the full letter sent out to parents from the Palm Beach County School District below:
I know that the national conversations about immigration policy have many of you worried. I want to assure you of my commitment to ensure that our schools continue to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students, regardless of their national origin.
In Florida, public schools are not permitted to ask about a family’s immigration status or share a student’s educational records with outside agencies without parental consent, a court order, or a subpoena.
The law requires us to educate every child that comes through our doors. It does not matter how or when you came to our community-please know that your child is always welcome at our schools and our school communities.
The greatest gift we can give our children is an education. It is important that you send your child to school every day.
Please do not hesitate to speak with your child’s principal or school counselor if you have any questions or concerns.