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LAUSD board: If Trump administration asks for student data, district will resist

Los Angeles Unified School Board members hear public comment during a recent meeting. The public television station it operates, KLCS, broadcasts all board meetings.
Kyle Stokes/KPCC
Los Angeles Unified School Board members hear public comment during a recent meeting. The public television station it operates, KLCS, broadcasts all board meetings.

If President-elect Donald Trump ever attempted to turn the Los Angeles Unified School District’s vast stores of student information against kids or their families in any way, the district’s school board pledged Tuesday to resist that attempt “to the fullest extent provided by the law.”

It’s a commitment plainly aimed at calming the fears among L.A. Unified’s diverse student body, particularly those with ties to the city’s immigrant communities.

Board members unanimously adopted a resolution stating the nation’s second-largest district would “continue to protect the data and identities of any student, family member, or school employee who may be adversely affected by any future policies or executive action that results in the collection of any personally identifiable information.”

The board’s action comes on the heels of widespread student walkouts from L.A. Unified campuses on four consecutive school days following Trump’s election.

Within his first 100 days in office, Trump has said he will begin removing 2 million “criminal illegal immigrants” and propose legislation constructing a border wall.

The 100-day plan does not call for raiding school districts’ student data files in search of information on citizenship status. But some Democrats have raised concerns about what the president-elect will do with data the Obama administration collected through the so-called “DACA” and “DAPA” programs, created by executive action to shield some undocumented immigrants from deportation.

An estimated one out of every 10 L.A. County residents is an undocumented immigrant, according to one University of Southern California study — and L.A. Unified, because of the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe, is obligated to serve undocumented children living within their borders.

In February, the L.A. Unified board directed district officials not to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement onto its campuses without a review by the superintendent.

Even after Trump appoints a new justice to the Supreme Court, L.A. Unified school board president Steve Zimmer said he anticipates the district’s obligation to serve all kids regardless of immigration status under Plyler will not change.

"We interpret that to make sure that all schools are safe places and safe zones,” Zimmer said, “and that ICE agents, or any immigration action, does not take place on our school sites.”

The resolution also directs Superintendent Michelle King — along with any other stakeholders who wish to be added as signatories — to send a joint letter "affirming the American ideals that are celebrated in Los Angeles addressed to the President-elect.”

Board member Mónica García said the resolution was not partisan.

“For all of those who are strengthened in this election, we welcome that,” García said. “For all those who are filled with questions in this election, we welcome that.”

Board member George McKenna offered amendments specifying schools could serve as safe zones "to the fullest extent provided by the law.”

“I do not believe we have the authority,” McKenna explained, “to tell our principals and schools that if a federal authority wants to come on to the campus and wants to do something … that we have the authority to resist that.”

McKenna, an African-American, closed debate on the resolution by recalling his upbringing in segregated New Orleans — and noted his joy at Barack Obama’s election in 2008. He echoed the words of songwriter Leonard Cohen, who passed away last week. 

“I shouted hallelujah” he said. “I never thought I would live to see something like that.”

When Trump was elected, McKenna added, “my hallelujah turned into … a cold and broken hallelujah … But I can still say hallelujah because I’m still here … And wherever we stand right now, we must stand together.”