Teachers learn how to talk to students about immigration

Local teachers gathered to learn how to talk to their students about immigration. (KXAN photo)
Local teachers gathered to learn how to talk to their students about immigration. (KXAN photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Dozens of teachers sat down for a workshop Saturday morning, touching on subjects from bullying to what to do if immigration officers knock on their students’ door.

With national reports of students being harassed over their immigration status, some teachers in Austin say students worry their parents will be gone when they get home. So, educators are hitting the books to answer the difficult questions coming their way.

“From pre-k to all 12th grade, this is a hard topic to talk about,” said Austin Teacher Union Vice President Montserrat Gariby. “But, I think it’s important that children and teens know what the consequences are if something like this happens, that way they’re not scared when it does happen.”

Teachers came prepared, asking questions on how to talk to their students and what kind of rights they have on school property.

“On the safe spaces, is it only safe when school is in session?” asked one teacher in the crowd.

Teachers were sent home with checklists for their students who are scared, outlining exactly what to do if immigration comes knocking on their doors.

“Families need to know what‘s going to happen in case the parent gets deported, who’s going to pick up the children, can the children open the door, if an agent comes,” Gariby said. “These are very simple things that the children need to know, that families need to know. They need to be prepared.”

A few tips teachers will be telling their students include only opening their door to an agent if they have a signed warrant, remaining silent if an arrest is made and contacting an attorney before signing anything ICE hands over.

City leaders say information like this is how Austin will stay safe and within their rights.

“We’re safe because we take the advice of the professionals, our sheriffs, our police chief and they’ve told us as a community what it would take to be the safest we can be and that is to build and encourage and not lose the trust relationship that exists,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

Gariby says one way students will feel safer in Austin schools is if the school district passes a resolution for safe schools. “Our students and our families need to feel welcome and they need to hear from our superintendent and our school board members that the schools are open for everybody,” she said.

Two other free immigration clinics have been scheduled, one later this month and one next month. On February 25 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., consultants will meet at Akins High School. They will meet again on March 11 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Dobie Middle School.