Thursday, September 17, 2015

Addressing Concerns for Some Immigrant Students



As teachers and school professionals, we know this time of year for you is busy and exciting. From setting up your classrooms, to greeting students and their families, to finalizing lesson plans and working with colleagues, it can be overwhelming. We encourage you to read our “Welcoming Immigrant Students in the Classroom” article published on Edutopia which offers some streamlined tips and best practices for creating an inclusive, positive environment for these students.

We also know that you are a trusted guide for students, and in particular, some of your more recently immigrated students may share questions and concerns with you that you may feel like you need more information to address. These concerns may require extra support perhaps requiring students to seek mental health counseling and legal assistance.

One thing to remember is that all students, regardless of immigration status, are guaranteed by law a right to a free public education under the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision Plyer v. Doe. The U.S. Department of Education issued a fact sheet for schools on educational services for immigrant students and those recently arrived in the U.S., and together with the Department of Justice, published a joint guidance letter , fact sheet and Questions and Answers reminding school districts of their federal obligation to educate all students residing in their respective district and how to enroll them.  A student’s immigration status isn’t something that teachers can or should inquire about and school staff are prohibited by federal law from taking action that may intimidate or “chill” immigrant students from attending school. 

With regard to individual legal issues of immigration that a student may choose to share with you, you can refer them to two helpful websites: www.ailalawyer.com and www.immigrationlawhelp.org to find a reputable attorney who can address their concerns. If you know a student is seeking asylum, you can also give them the number to the National Asylum Help Line at 612-746-4674 from 9AM-4PM Monday through Friday. This hotline helps asylum seekers find free legal services and immigration attorneys near them.

If you would like more information on this topic, please send us an email with the subject line “Educator Understandings” at teacher@immcouncil.org and we will send it to you directly.

We wish you the best as you start your school year – and please do take advantage of our free lesson plans and resources to teach about immigration critically and thoughtfully with all students!

Also, check out our latest lesson plan “Analyzing Immigrant Contributions through Data, Story, and Voice” for high school students and participate in our #diverselit tweet chat on building a diverse library tonight at 7:30pm EST. Please use the hashtag #diverselit. We at @ThnkImmigration would love to hear from you!