South Kingstown School Committee passes resolution in support of immigrant, refugee and undocumented students and families

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“We saw what happened in Mississippi on the first day of school and how traumatic that can be,” said South Kingstown School Committee member Sarah Markey. “Immigration enforcement activities around a school district have a really negative impact on students and their families and the learning environment.”

In a unanimous 7-0 vote, the South Kingstown School Committee passed a resolution that not only supports immigrant, refugee and undocumented students and families, but also, in the words of committee member Sarah Markey, “condemns the inhumane actions that are being facilitated by ICE [United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement] through the detention of migrant children who’ve been separated from their families.”

“The resolution in front of us is a resolution supporting immigrant, refugee and undocumented students and families in the South Kingstown School District,” said Markey, introducing the resolution to her fellow committee members and the public. “We’re a district that pretty frequently talks about, in our mission and in our day-to-day operations, centering kids and creating a safe and supportive learning environment for all students.”

The previous school committee passed a Campus Safety Policy that “doesn’t put the school in the position of immigration enforcement” and “insures that requests from immigration officials will be denied unless they come with a valid judicial order,” continued Markey.

“A lot of what this resolution is doing is reiterating [the Campus Safety Policy] and communicating that very clearly to community members,” continued Markey. “We saw what happened in Mississippi on the first day of school and how traumatic that can be. Immigration enforcement activities around a school district have a really negative impact on students and their families and the learning environment. I also believe that all of us up here care about all kids, not just kids that go to our school districts, but whether you’re in South Kingstown or Westerly or El Paso, we want to ensure that you are in a safe environment.”

Near the end of the resolution are what Markey called a “set of value statements about what we believe is right for students and that all students, regardless of immigration status, should have access to a safe learning environment.”

Here is the set of values from the resolution:

  1. South Kingstown School District personnel shall not inquire about or record a student’s or a family member’s social security number or immigration status.
  2. Any communication to federal agencies or officials initiated by school personnel, concerning confidential information about a student or a student family member’s actual or perceived immigration or citizenship status, shall be directed to the Superintendent.
  3. The South Kingstown School District shall refuse all voluntary information sharing with immigration agents to the fullest extent possible under the law.
  4. The South Kingstown School District and its staff, faculty, employees, and school resource officers or campus police will not honor any ICE detainers or requests in the absence of judicial authorization.
  5. Any request by immigration agents for information about a student or to access a school site shall be initially denied and immediately forwarded to the Superintendent who, in consultation with legal counsel, shall review and decide whether to reverse the denial and allow access to the site or provide the information because compliance is legally required.

At the conclusion of the resolution “we’re respectfully requesting that RIDE support legislation that will codify a set of standards for all schools in the state to ensure that there is a safe learning environment for all students in Rhode Island regardless of immigration status.”

Markey ended her explanation with a personal story.

“A couple of weeks ago I was at the Town’s river fire and my heart swelled because there was the table with students from Peacedale Elementary School. They must have been second or third graders and they were selling lemonade. They were selling lemonade to raise money for RAICES, which is a group in Texas that provides legal representation for undocumented immigrants, and primarily their efforts were for legal representation for children. I just thought, you know we have our Campus Safety Policy, that’s a good policy, and we need to do more to make sure that people are aware of it and that we’re training staff on the implementation – but we can do more, we can say more, to really model for our students who are already taking action as second graders, to really model for them what what civic engagement looks like.”

The resolution passed the school committee 7-0. Most of the forty or so people in attendance broke out into applause when the resolution passed.

During the public comment portion of the school committee meeting, before the passage of the resolution, Tia Beckman, speaking on behalf of herself and the South Kingstown Immigration Task Force, supported the resolution’s passage.

“I understand that you have written a resolution in support of immigrants, refugees, and undocumented students and families by reaffirming the need for judicial warrants and respect for student privacy,” said Beckman. “We really appreciate that the School Committee is concerned not only for South Kingstown students but also for all of Rhode Island. Thank you very much for your hard work.”

Near the end of the meeting Markey thanked the community for their support in the process of crafting the resolution.


You can read the entire resolution here:

Resolution in Support of Immigrant, Refugee, and Undocumented Students and Families in the South Kingstown School District

WHEREAS, the South Kingstown School District is committed to creating a safe, supportive, and welcoming learning environment for all students, regardless of immigration status; and

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court in Plyler v Doe (1982) held that no public school district may deny children access to education based on their immigration status, citing both the harm it would inflict on the child and society itself and the commands of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and

WHEREAS, ensuring that our schools are safe and inviting for all students and their families will facilitate the physical safety and emotional well-being of all children in the District, and is paramount to students’ ability to achieve; and

WHEREAS, immigration enforcement activities around schools create hardships and barriers to health and educational attainment, and a pervasive climate of fear, conflict and stress that affect all students in our District, regardless of their background or status; and

WHEREAS, the South Kingstown School District additionally condemns the inhumane actions and conditions being facilitated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through the detaining of separated migrant children in child detention facilities, and recognizes that reports of these actions and conditions have stoked fears and anxieties for students and their families; and

WHEREAS, school districts have no obligation, in the absence of a valid judicial order, to assist ICE in the enforcement of immigration laws; and

WHEREAS, it is the policy of ICE that, absent a lawful exception, enforcement actions should not occur at schools, which are considered sensitive locations; and

WHEREAS, the South Kingstown School Committee has enacted a Campus Safety Policy;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the School Committee of the South Kingstown School District hereby declares that every South Kingstown School District site is a safe place for its students and their families to seek help, assistance, and information if faced with fear and anxiety about immigration enforcement efforts.

RESOLVED FURTHER: In furtherance of this declaration and absent any applicable federal or state law, regulation, ordinance or court decision to the contrary, the South Kingstown School District shall abide by the following conduct:

  1. South Kingstown School District personnel shall not inquire about or record a student’s or a family member’s social security number or immigration status.
  2. Any communication to federal agencies or officials initiated by school personnel, concerning confidential information about a student or a student family member’s actual or perceived immigration or citizenship status, shall be directed to the Superintendent.
  3. The South Kingstown School District shall refuse all voluntary information sharing with immigration agents to the fullest extent possible under the law.
  4. The South Kingstown School District and its staff, faculty, employees, and school resource officers or campus police will not honor any ICE detainers or requests in the absence of judicial authorization.
  5. Any request by immigration agents for information about a student or to access a school site shall be initially denied and immediately forwarded to the Superintendent who, in consultation with legal counsel, shall review and decide whether to reverse the denial and allow access to the site or provide the information because compliance is legally required.

RESOLVED FURTHER: The School Committee of the South Kingstown School District respectfully requests the Rhode Island Department of Education to support the adoption of legislation to codify these standards into state law in order to ensure a safe learning environment for all students in Rhode Island.


The members of the South Kingstown School Committee are:

  • Stephanie Canter – Chair
  • Sarah Markey – Vice Chair
  • Michelle Brousseau
  • Alycia Collins
  • Emily Cummiskey
  • Kate McMahon Macinanti
  • Jacy Northup

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About Steve Ahlquist 1084 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade.Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.atomicsteve@gmail.com