Board Chair Teree Caldwell-Johnson at a DMPS Board Meeting in 2011.

Last week the Des Moines Public Schools Board unanimously passed two resolutions in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order dealing with refugees and immigration.

“When a child in Des Moines shows up at our schools – no matter their place of birth or religion or language or skin color – they should know that they belong here and we stand by them,” Teree Caldwell-Johnson, chair of the Des Moines Public Schools Board, said in a statement before the board meeting. “We are proud to educate students from around the globe, and will do everything we can to make all 33,000 of our students feel welcomed and supported in our schools.”

Ok, I’m glad they want kids to feel welcome. I didn’t realize President Trump’s order compelled them to do otherwise. I also didn’t realize that the people within the district elected the board members to spout off on immigration and refugee policy.

Des Moines Public Schools noted in a press release last week that approximately 4,000 DMPS students were born outside of the United States, from nearly 100 different nations, including over 250 students from the seven nations included in the executive order signed by President Trump. More than one out of five students at DMPS are English Language Learners.

They describe the first resolution:

The first is a “sanctuary” resolution, which would set parameters on the school district responses to inquiries from ICE. The resolution directs that any requests made of DMPS and its schools by ICE officials to access school information or school grounds must be processed through the Superintendent who will consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with the law. Schools shall not permit ICE officials to access students, their families, or district staff and contractors at schools without having first contacted and processed their request and all relevant documentation through the Superintendent. The resolution would also remind DMPS staff that they may not inquire about the immigration or citizenship status of students or their parents or guardians.

Is this a solution looking for a problem? Have they received inquiries from ICE in the past? If they don’t keep such data anyway wouldn’t it be a waste of time for ICE to contact them? Also if they are going to drag their feet in working with a federal agency should they have their hands out for federal money?

Also they are so concerned about this data being given over to ICE do they take this much care with all of the other data mining that goes on in the district and all of the other government agencies and third parties that receive student data? This, to me, seems hypocritical. I’m curious where was their resolution condemning the U.S. Department of Education for gutting FERPA by rule? Crickets….

This all may be a moot discussion while the executive order gets hashed out in the courts. My understanding, and I have mixed feelings about the executive order and the way it was introduced and misinterpreted by some White House staff, is that it is legal. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against it, but if you read their opinion it sounds more like general disagreement based on ideology rather than a legal opinion. About 80-90 percent of their decisions are overturned when they reach the Supreme Court. There’s a reason for that.

I digress however. Fortunately the resolution is not outright civil disobedience, but rather prudence to make sure a request is lawful. I can respect that, but, again, I think it is a solution looking for a problem.

If they already have a policy the resolution is political grandstanding which is inappropriate for a school board that is supposed to be non-partsan.

The second resolution that was passed was described by DMPS this way:

The second resolution the Board will consider voices support for the nearly 5,500 students in Iowa who have registered under the DACA program, commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” and urges Iowa’s congressional delegation to support the BRIDGE Act. This act, which has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and House, would grant provisional protected presence status, and imposes restrictions on the sharing of information for the purposes of immigration enforcement. The resolution also asks the Iowa General Assembly to support and respect all students regardless of origin or immigration status.

President Obama’s executive amnesty was unconstitutional and again Des Moines voters did not elect this board to weigh in on immigration policy.

I’d love to seem them focus on improving Des Moines Public Schools, when they do that job well then maybe they can wade into other interests. Could you picture the outrage by liberals had this board passed resolutions in response to something President Obama did?

3 comments
  1. Thank you for providing some perspective in this matter. DMPS is not an agency of the Democratic party but of the general citizenry of the Des Moines community. Board activity should reflect the demographics of the community. Also, their resolutions are based on a false premise: that students come to school with only goodness to share with others. Is the school population well served when views and activities that are contrary to our community interests are protected and sheltered in the schools, where parents cannot participate in the discussion nor provide direction that preserves and protects our community values?

    1. Steve, all school board meetings are open to the public so parents and other community members are able to participate at any meeting. If there wasn’t any discussion about these two resolutions, which, again, the Board is compelled to have, then perhaps parents and community members were not interested in discussion – assuming that any of these people were in attendance. It has been my experience that DMPS doesn’t always follow the law when it comes to many issues of education – FERPA is simply one of those issues.

  2. Shane, DACA is not unconstitutional according to many immigration attorneys and judges. All you need to do is Fact Check this issue. A President can bypass congress – just as Trump has done several times in the past 3 weeks.

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