Amid ongoing tensions over changes to U.S. immigration policy, Chicago Public Schools on Tuesday told principals not to let federal immigration authorities inside district buildings unless they have a criminal warrant.
Principals were also urged to have parents update student emergency contact forms and include backup contacts that schools could turn to if a child’s parents were detained.
The new guidelines to principals from CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson were included in materials that acknowledged community “concern and anxiety about immigration matters” amid President Donald Trump’s vows to crack down on people living in this country illegally.
The Department of Homeland Security announced a broad expansion of immigration enforcement priorities, with particular focus on immigrants who have been convicted of any criminal offense or have unresolved criminal charges pending.
“To be very clear, CPS does not provide assistance to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the enforcement of federal civil immigration law,” the district’s message to principals said.
A district spokesman said CPS was not aware of any recent efforts by immigration agents to access schools. But according to Jackson’s letter, principals have asked how to handle interactions with ICE officials.
Officials told principals to contact CPS attorneys if immigration enforcement agents arrived at their school, according to a brief list of guidelines given to principals. “ICE agents should wait outside while the school is reviewing the matter with the Law Department.” School principals also should not share student records with agents, the district said.
As an extra “proactive measure,” CPS said schools should encourage parents to update emergency contact forms.
“If a child is left stranded at your school and you suspect it is because his or her parent is detained, please exhaust the child’s emergency contact list,” the list of CPS guidelines said. “Please have a staff member remain with the student until the parent, guardian or emergency contact can arrive.”
Principals would get more detailed answers to their questions “in the coming days,” Jackson’s letter said.
CPS attendance dropped considerably last Thursday during a citywide series of pro-immigration demonstrations.
According to CPS, slightly more than three-quarters of the district’s Hispanic students attended classes that day — a figure the district said was significantly below average.
“While many of our families have serious concerns and anxiety about recent federal actions and statements, we want to make sure that parents know school is a safe place for all students regardless of their race, ethnicity or country of origin,” Jackson wrote.
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