District displays support for undocumented students through recent efforts

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Pledging their support for the district’s undocumented community, the MVLA Board of Trustees unanimously passed Resolution 17-14 last month. It was a move that Board President Debbie Torok said she personally supported.

“For me, the reason why I wanted to do it is I think it’s important we’re united with our sister districts,” Torok said, citing resolutions passed by Mountain View Whisman School District and Los Altos School District. “Families stay in the district, so you don’t want a family that has a student in Mountain View Whisman who knows they’re safe, but we didn’t pass a resolution in our high school district. It’s telling our community that we’re consistently united and we support our students and their families.”

Board resolutions, according to Superintendent Jeff Harding, are statements that serve as direction for district staff. The resolution is a public declaration of support, but the tangible impacts are less clear, Torok said.

“I sincerely hope that students will feel less stressed and more relaxed about coming to school, so it reduces anxiety and fear in our community and with our students, but I don’t know what it ultimately will do,” Torok said.

However, the resolution is only one of recent district displays of support for its undocumented community.

In December, it hosted a Posada event through El Cafecito, its Spanish-speaking parent group, inviting an immigration attorney to speak about immigration laws and immigrant rights. In February, the district sent a letter to all parents, students, and staff, informing them that the district does not collect information regarding citizenship status and assuring them that “every student – and their families- is welcome on our campuses.” And soon after, MVLA administration attended a city-hosted forum discussing Mountain View’s policies for supporting undocumented residents.

“We don’t want parents hesitating to come to campus, hesitating to send their students here, feeling uncomfortable, so the more we can convey…our commitment to protecting their rights, the better off we’re all going to be,” Harding said.

Starting today, the Immigrants Support Committee, a group of students and staff at MVHS, including students from ASB, Camp Metamorph, and ELD, is putting on a celebration of diversity called Strength in Unity Week.

“We realized that this year, in the tumultuous post-election atmosphere, that a lot of our students were fearful,” Spanish teacher Lauren Camarillo said. “They were nervous about their future, their families’ future, and we wanted to assure them that they were safe at school—not just assure them of their safety, but let them know that we support them and appreciate them and value them.”

The Strength in Unity Week will feature lunchtime activities including an attorney from the Santa Clara County Office of Immigrant Rights speaking on the legal rights of undocumented immigrants on Thursday, an open mic event in the gym on Friday,  and a resource table available all week in the main quad.

Associate Superintendent Mike Mathiesen and Torok spoke to a classroom full of students for today’s lunch-time event. Mathiesen stressed that, under legal precedent, all students have a right to a high school education, regardless of citizenship status.

According to Harding, the district has no additional plans to support its undocumented students.

Camarillo, however, said that much of MVHS’ support for its undocumented immigrants is not as visible as it should be.

“Something teachers can do is just reiterate the fact that they’re there to support, and they might not have the answers to questions if students have questions or fears or doubts, but they can guide them in the right direction,” Camarillo said.

She also described her concern with the stigmas surrounding being undocumented and asking for resources.

“I would encourage any students, whether they’re undocumented, members of their family are, or they have friends who are undocumented—I would encourage them to find someone on campus that they trust and ask for help if they need it and ask for support if they need it, or just share with them about their story so they can understand and so that everyone on our campus can be open-minded and value and appreciate every type of person.”

Alan Zhou
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