This past meeting was an Education Committee meeting for the New Westminster School Board. It was the presentation of the Safe and Welcoming Schools For All policy that was the highlight. After much discussion and some concern expressed about the possible “unintended consequences” of people sneaking into the district and international fee paying students (who contribute millions of dollars to NewWest Schools, the School Board unanimously adopted the Sanctuary Schools Policy (I will update this with an amended copy when I get one). If my notes are accurate then this is what the beginning of the policy will look like,
New Westminster Sanctuary Schools Policy
The New Westminster Board of Education takes pride in its commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all children and families who are ordinarily resident in New Westminster, including those with precarious or no immigration status.
To uphold the Board’s commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all students who are ordinarily resident in New Westminster, including those with precarious or no immigration status.
2.1. All school age children who are ordinarily resident in the school district, including those who are with precarious or no immigration status in Canada, are entitled to admission in school.
It was an incredibly moving evening with members of our community talking about some of the struggles they had to overcome to be able to leave their countries and move to a safer place in Canada, and in our community, New Westminster. Of concern was the comments that some of them made about being in New Westminster for months and being denied the right to put their children in school. I give special thanks to Mark Gifford who brought this forward and led the committee to develop this policy. For over 30 years as a Trustee I was told that there was nothing that we could do with children who were not legal immigrants to Canada and that enrolling them in our schools with not be legal. It took the addition of Kelly Slade-Kerr and Mark Gifford to the New Westminster School Board to move this issue forward to this exciting resolution and I will be forever in their debt for that leadership.
This should mean that, as of the adoption of this policy (hopefully February 28), when anyone goes to a New Westminster school to register their child for school the only answer will be yes.
Below is a copy of the amended policy.
NEW WESTMINSTER SANCTUARY SCHOOLS POLICY
The New Westminster Board of Education takes pride in its commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all children and families who are ordinarily resident in New Westminster, including those with precarious immigration status or no immigration status.
To uphold the Board’s commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all students who are ordinarily resident in New Westminster including those with precarious immigration status or no immigration status.
2.1. All school age children who are ordinarily residents in the school district, including those with precarious immigration status or no immigration status in Canada, are entitled to admission in school.
2.2. The personal information of enrolled students or their families shall not be shared with federal immigration authorities unless required by law.
2.3. The Board shall not permit Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials or immigration authorities to enter schools or Board facilities unless required by law.
2.4. All public school employees and volunteers shall be informed of this policy, and it will be communicated to requisite stakeholders including immigrant communities.
- SPECIFIC DIRECTIVES
The Board will implement communication protocols and admission procedures in accordance with these requirements.
3.1. This policy and relevant provisions of the School Act will be communicated annually to all school administrators, school office staff, and school teachers. Such materials will also be prominently displayed in school offices, admissions offices and on the Board’s website.
3.2. The Board will provide orientation and training for all staff regarding the policy in order to promote expertise and sensitivity regarding the needs of students without immigration status in Canada.
3.3. A thorough communications plan will be developed to share this information in immigrant communities.
3.4. The appropriate instructions for staff and public information materials concerning admission procedures will be revised to reflect the above policy. Such revisions will also be included in all training and orientation programs for staff and community agencies who have responsibilities in this area.
3.5. All student registration forms, including electronic databases, which refer to immigration status in Canada, will be deemed strictly confidential.
3.6. All student registration forms, including electronic databases, will provide clearly stated options for any family which does not wish to share proof of immigration status as a means of establishing that they are ordinarily resident in New Westminster.
3.7. Where there is a need to verify a student’s name, home address, or date of arrival in Canada, and where the usual supporting documentation is not available, the Board and schools will accept combination of tenancy agreements, utility bills and/or letters from lawyers, medical doctors, religious and community leaders and others confirming their personal knowledge that the student is ordinarily resident in the school district.
3.8. Schools will continue to comply with current Ministry of Education requirements in the case of students for whom ELL funding claims are made, but will not disseminate students’ personal information.
3.9. An independent or third-party based complaints mechanism will be set up to hear from families who have been denied admission based on immigration status and appropriate accountability measures developed to ensure that no child is turned away.
3.10. There will be an annual review of the implementation of these policies by Board of Education, which includes input from community organizations and stakeholder groups represented in the development of this policy.
SD No. 40 (New Westminster)