The Durham school board on Monday will consider changing rules for sharing confidential student information with law enforcement organizations, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
The proposed revisions come amid actions under President Donald Trump that have led to more arrests and deportations of those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.
Durham Public Schools has, in part, blamed the nearly doubling of the number of Hispanic students dropping out of school last year on inflammatory rhetoric about immigration during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Under recommended additions to DPS Policy 4321 (Investigations and Arrests by Law Enforcement), confidential student information would only be shared with law enforcement officers, including school resource officers, with a “judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena to address a safety or health emergency as allowed by law concerning the juvenile justice system or as otherwise permitted by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Other proposed additions to Policy 4321 would require:
▪ Law enforcement officials to provide interpretation services when notifying and/or interviewing a limited English proficient student and/or parent/guardian.
▪ Any request by ICE for information or to access a school site be immediately forwarded to the superintendent for review and a decision on whether to allow access to the site, and/or the information to ensure district compliance with students’ constitutional right to attend school under the Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe and other applicable laws.
▪ The superintendent to immediately notify the board of ICE requests.
Teachers prompt effort
The district’s review of Policy 4321 was prompted by a working group from the Durham Association of Educators, which asked the school board in February to consider policies that better protect student privacy and due process rights.
They group presented “Preserving the Sanctity of the Learning Environment,” a document that made nine recommendations that included requiring all law enforcement agencies to present a valid warrant to obtain student information, conduct interviews or conduct surveillance, detain or make an arrest.
Some of the recommendations are already covered under existing provisions in the policy and others are addressed in the proposed additions.
The DAE group’s recommendation urged the board to require the DPS attorney to notify parents of warrants in their home language, require parents be notified when law enforcement agencies request student information and that law enforcement agents only question students in the presence of an attorney, parent or legal guardian.
The group also asked DPS to generate monthly reports documenting the number of warrants served on students and to list the agency from which they came, including those generated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The teachers said training DPS staffers to teach them how to properly handle confidential student information is also important and that all school personnel be prohibited from sharing any student information unless a parent or the DPS attorney authorizes disclosure.
Debbie Pitman, assistant superintendent of specialized services, said DPS’ policy is more restrictive than FERPA regulations in that DPS policy does not require the release of a student’s address.
The DAE group also asked that staff be given the freedom to discuss policy during the academic day and that students are informed about Miranda rights and other legal rights regarding interactions with law enforcement agents.
Pitman said DPS will make Miranda rights and other such legal rights available for review on the district’s website and in the student/parent handbook.