According to the Austin American Statesman, educators who are members of the teachers union group Educate Austin were recently caught handing out literature to students that instructed them on how they should handle immigration enforcement authorities should they appear at their homes and start asking questions.
The school district’s attorney sent out a memo to principles within the district that reminded them what teachers can and can’t do.
“An employee, staff member, teacher, or administrator may not speak to political affiliation, views, protests, advocacy or other controversial issues or topics that may arise while on district property, whether that is in a classroom or in an administrative building, working as a district employee, or using district resources.”
Teachers began handing out pamphlets containing the information on how to deal with ICE after it was reported that immigration enforcement had been carrying out “Operation Cross Check,” which resulted in the 51 arrests of illegal immigrants in the Austin area. Of these arrests, 23 had criminal convictions, with some even being violent.
As a result, Educate Austin distributed instructional documents to its 3,000 members to give to their students. This includes a United We Dream flier titled “What to do if ICE comes to your door.” Instructions include advice such as “stay silent,” and “do not open doors.”
Educate Austin trustees Jayme Mathias, Paul Saldaña and Ann Teich attended a press conference outside of Lanier High School, and all spoke in favor of illegal immigrant students, and are believed to be putting pressure on other district board members to adopt a resolution that will essentially make the school district a sort of sanctuary district.
“We are in a difficult position for our students, our families and our staff,” Teich said. “Many of our immigrant students are operating in and out of school in an atmosphere of fear. Their learning is impacted because of this fear… it is the responsibility of trustees and all AISD staff to ensure that hate does not dominate the lives of our students. To that end, I believe it is the responsibility of trustees and all of our staff to ensure our students and their families are equipped with the information that combats bullying, hate and fear.”
Not at the press conference was Superintendent of the Austin School District, and board President Kendall Pace released a statement, saying “we have heard the concerns from our families and staff. We will continue to provide and update information for our campus staff to assist them in better serving our students.”
Since the election of President Donald Trump, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has made enforcing immigration laws a top priority in his state, telling cities in no uncertain terms that they “will comply immigration laws.” Recently, Abbott had to threaten a Travis county sheriff with taking away millions of dollars worth of state funding for instructing her office to refuse cooperation with ICE.
Should the Austin School District fall to the suggestions of Educate Austin, there’s little doubt that Abbott will come down hard on them as well.