Culver City Edition Lead Story News

Culver City school board adopts ‘safe zone’ policy

CULVER CITY — The Culver City school board unanimously passed a resolution Nov. 22 declaring all district school campuses as “safe zones,” saying it won’t allow law enforcement agents looking to deport those without documentation on its campuses without a review process.

The language in the resolution makes it clear Culver City Unified School District schools are safe spaces for the diverse students and families the district serves, a district spokesperson said.

Like many other districts in the Southland, Culver City has a diverse student population with 35 percent Hispanic, 25 percent white, 25 percent black and 15 percent Asian.

School board President Steve Levin said the safe zones resolution is a critical component to making sure students and their families are comfortable on campus and able to move ahead with the district’s primary charge.

“Our responsibility is to educate the students,” he said. “That’s harder to do if they are living in fear of deportation or persecution. We want every single child to know that we will do everything in our power to keep them safe and secure. Every child in Culver City needs to know that they can trust every member of the CCUSD family, and this resolution is one attempt to make that clear.”

Board member Anne Allaire echoed those sentiments.

“To learn, children and adolescents need to feel safe and supported,” she said. “It is essential that we have a resolution that explicitly outlines our shared commitment to the conditions of safety — physical, social and emotional — for our students and in our schools. I whole-heartedly support this resolution that expresses our dedication to create an atmosphere of sincere support for the social/emotional well-being and academic success of our students.”

The resolution, officially entitled “Success For All Means Safety For All: Culver City Unified School District Campuses as Safe Zones and Resource Centers for Students and Families,” also encourages the superintendent to increase and enhance partnerships with community-based organizations and legal service organizations who provide resources for families facing deportation, registration and/or other civil rights restrictions.

It also aimed to develop a rapid response network to assist any affected children and their family members.

The resolution also:

• Requires federal agents to only be on campus after a thorough review and decision made by the superintendent and the district’s legal counsel.

• Continues to protect a student’s immigration status, religion, disability or sexual orientation by not allowing staff members to ask for that information.

• Creates resource and information sites for students and their families on each campus to address issues of civil rights.

•Asks all schools to treat students equitably, including those receiving free and reduced lunches, transportation and other services.

“I am proud to stand with my fellow board members in defense of the civil rights of our students and families,” school board member Sue Robins said. “As a school district, our role is to provide an outstanding education to every student that walks through our doors and ensure that our students are safe and unimpeded in their access to all that we have to offer them.”

While the board made clear that students should feel safe on campuses regardless of who is in the White House, board member Kathy Paspalis made it clear the resolution’s timing was a direct result of the divisive rhetoric that permeated the recent presidential election.

“We have an obligation, first and foremost, to ensure, to the extent possible, the health and safety of our students,” she said. “The incoming administration has raised a specter of justifiable fear and anxiety in much of our country, and, closer to home, in many of our students and staff.

“As such, we will do what we can to allay those fears and protect our community, just as others of goodwill are stepping up all over this country to do the same in their communities.”

“It’s a challenging time to be in policy-making,” said school board member Kelly Kent. “It can be even more intense, as a school board member, when considering that the people perhaps most affected by any potential federal policy changes are students.

“I sincerely hope the community feels a greater sense of security as a result of this resolution’s passing,” Kent added. “I hope they will also continue to reach out with explicit demands corresponding to changing needs in a changing political climate. We can only know how best to serve if we are informed directly by the populations most impacted by what’s ahead.”