Equity & Diversity Opinion

Superintendent: Immigrant Students Need a Safe Harbor in School

Let your students know they’re all welcome
By Susana Cordova — August 19, 2019 2 min read
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Schools, first and foremost, need to be safe, welcoming, and caring places for our students and their families. That’s absolutely essential to making sure our teachers and students can excel in the classroom.

In the wake of the horrible tragedy in El Paso, Texas, and the ICE raids in Mississippi that have come crashing down on a nation already awash in rising racial tension and vilification of immigrant families, we in the Denver public school district are now more than ever focused on being a safe harbor for all of our children and families.

In painful and fearful times like these, our children, especially, get so much comfort and strength from being around their friends and caring adults.

As superintendent, it was wonderful to be back at our schools this week, welcoming back our students, staff, and families for the new school year.

In painful and fearful times like these, our children, especially, get so much comfort and strength from being around their friends and caring adults.

We can’t erase the pain and fear. There’s no making sense of the hatred and cruelty that some now use to lash out at the heart and soul of America. We are a nation of immigrants that has grown in strength and spirit because—when we are at our best—we welcome families looking for a better life.

The best we can do for our children now is to be here for them—to listen, to teach, to play, to bring them the moments of carefree joy that childhood is supposed to be about. This is what schools should do: We should teach our students and help make sure that they feel loved, which is particularly important when they may feel consumed by fear and surrounded by hate.

In Denver, a wonderfully diverse, immigrant-rich community, we are proud of the support we provide our immigrant neighbors. Our board of education has unanimously passed a resolution affirming our commitment to “do everything in [our] lawful power to protect our students’ confidential information and ensure that our students’ learning environments are not disrupted by immigration enforcement actions.” We work to make sure all of our families are aware of their rights in protecting their children’s access to our schools and their education, regardless of immigration status. We also strive to make sure that all of our families know the wide array of support services available to them through the school district and our partner agencies. I collaborate with the other leaders who are part of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents on ways we can support our students and families, and we stand ready to help any other districts in these efforts.

This is a hard and painful time for anyone who cares deeply about making our nation a safe and welcoming place for all our students and our immigrant and migrant families.

I get strength and comfort from helping to make sure our schools are that safe and welcoming place. The start of the new school year was such a big boost to my morale: my first school visit, my first wide, electric smile from an excited student, my first hug.

The best part of being back in school is the strength and comfort I get back from being part of a community dedicated to increasing opportunities for all our kids. When I see our students eyes light up while learning, when I hear their laughter ring out, because they feel safe and secure, I know we are doing our job.

A version of this article appeared in the August 21, 2019 edition of Education Week as Amid Rising Hate, We Must Make Our Students Feel Loved


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