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DACA Decision’s Impact on K-12 Schools

The Trump administration’s decision this week to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has broad implications for America’s public schools.

As NPR reports, the program, first established in 2012 through executive action by President Barack Obama, grants protections to young people brought to the United States illegally as minors by their parents. Those protections include the permission to legally work and study, as well as an exemption from deportation.

Around 800,000 young people, known as DREAMers, are currently protected by the program. The Trump administration’s decision allows for a six-month phase out of DACA, in hopes that Congress can pass legislation addressing the issue.

Supporters of the decision believe that President Obama’s use of an executive order to create the program represented a reach of authority. The wind-down period, they say, allows for Congress to pass legislation addressing DREAMers’ legal status.

But, critics say the decision puts young people who have lived most of their lives in America at risk of being removed from the only country they’ve ever known.

For K12 school districts, the decision creates uncertainty not only for students, but for young teachers and staff who may be protected under DACA. In the wake of the decision, many school district leaders affirmed their commitment to serving all students and staff.

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As Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, told Education Week:

“The mission of public schools is to create opportunity—not for some children, but for all. The public-school system has not always been true to that dream, but it is striving to meet the needs of those dreamers now. For urban public schools, whose classrooms are filled with students from all over the world, our mission is not to reflect or perpetuate the walls that others would build. Our job is to tear them down, to educate future generations of informed, engaged citizens.”

With threats of legal action from some state governments, ongoing protests, and more political fights to come, school leaders will need to stay well-informed of the latest developments surrounding DACA, and what it means for their school communities.

Students, parents, and staff will undoubtedly have questions about how the new DACA decision will impact them, their friends, or their families. And they will look to school leadership for the answers.

This is isn’t the first time this year that school districts have faced changes to immigration issues. In March, several districts passed resolutions reaffirming their commitment to protect the privacy of immigrant students in the wake of the Trump administration’s call for stricter enforcement of federal immigration laws.

As we wrote back in March, school districts play a central role in keeping communities informed and engaged during policy discussions and changes:

“As you move forward, developing new policies to protect students and uphold the law, it’s important to engage your community in these discussions and seek their input. These conversations will be intense, and decisions won’t be easily made, but by making sure every community member has a voice in the conversation, you put yourself in position to address the questions and concerns of your entire district.”

How do changes to DACA stand to impact families in your district? What steps are you taking to answer questions or concerns from parents, students, and staff? Tell us in the comments.