Groups call background check policy for school visitors discriminatory

Groups call background check policy for school visitors discriminatory

Excerpted from a Reno Gazette Journal story by Siobhan McAndrew

Civil rights and immigrant community leaders sent a letter to Washoe County School District Superintendent Traci Davis condemning a plan to background check all parents visiting their children’s schools.

The new policy, approved by the school board in November, will require all visitors to district properties to have a government-issued photo identification card.

The ID card, such as a driver’s license or passport, will be used to conduct an immediate background report to check for sex offenders, warrants and people on the FBI terrorist list. Principals would have the right to exclude people from campus based on the background check and the school could report people to the police.

The policy is called “discriminatory” in a letter signed by civil rights, criminal justice, education and immigrant community leaders including the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

“It is not appropriate for Washoe County schools to serve as an extension of law enforcement in this matter,” the letter to Davis said.

“Parents should feel comfortable coming to school for show-and-tell, Nevada Reading Week and any other activities at their children’s school without fear of being caught up in a law enforcement dragnet.”

The district said identification would be accepted from other countries, and a Nevada-issued ID provided to non-citizens would also be accepted.

District spokeswoman Victoria Campbell said that any violations of local, state or federal laws, except immigration status, found in the background check may be turned over to the police.

“In other words, if an individual is found to be undocumented, for example, the district will not inform law enforcement,” Campbell said.

On Monday, the district said in a statement that it understands the concerns addressed in the letter.

“We will be working closely with community partners to explain the policy’s intent and to clarify any misconceptions. We strive for schools that are safe and secure for all students and staff, and to make each school a welcoming environment for families and the entire community.”

The letter to Davis says that the new policy may result in a number of unintended consequences for immigrant parents without status.

“Although the WCSD has publicly maintained that it will not reveal or give parental immigration status to the federal government for the purposes of immigration enforcement, it may still be federally required to do so,” the letter said.

The letter to Davis also said that as “elected officials rush to pass new policies to give the appearance of safety, it must be noted that there is little in the way of evidence that suggests these policies actually enhance school safety.”

ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Tod Story said education leaders should reject the instinct to pass policies out of fear.

“Even warrants for minor traffic infractions can lead to family separations and a parent’s deportation, and Washoe Schools will be complicit in these separations if they continue down this path,” Story said.

 

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