Holland school leader reacts to backlash over immigrant comments

Holland Public Schools Brian Davis
An undated courtesy photo of Holland Public Schools Superintendent Brian Davis. (Holland Public Schools)

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Holland Public Schools Superintendent Brian Davis is responding to  backlash from civil rights advocates regarding his meeting with federal immigration authorities that resulted in controversial advice for school staff about potential deportations.

The Detroit News reported Davis told district staff March 3 that residents must open the door when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials knock, an idea civil rights groups discourage without a warrant.

Davis said earlier this week he asked ICE in the meeting to find out how schools might be involved in deportations. His meeting prompted a March 31 letter from two civil rights advocates warning the government and school officials across Michigan about the potential for schools to be influenced by President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement initiatives.

Friday, Davis issued the following statement:

“Understanding the technical legal issues around U.S. immigration is a challenging endeavor. This can be difficult and confusing for students and families that are impacted by immigration. This can also be true for schools, which are not directly involved but can be directly impacted. I apologize if any of the information I provided in recent days has been misinterpreted, or has been a misstatement on my part. I do not want to contribute to this confusion.

“The original public statement below still stands. An email which I sent to the staff of Holland Public Schools recently was intended to transmit information about immigration enforcement procedures that I had learned, and that was presented to me by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. My staff was aware of meetings I was participating in, and I wanted to strongly encourage my employees to avoid giving out legal advice to anyone facing the complex legal issue of immigration enforcement. Again, I am sorry if my email did not serve the purpose for which it was intended.

“Our role as educators is to provide a safe and nurturing school environment where all students can learn. Student safety while attending our schools has been and will continue to be a top priority for myself and my staff. I will continue to work with other champions for children in our community to achieve this goal. I appreciate the ongoing discussion and collaboration with leaders from the City of Holland Human Relations Commission and the Latin Americans United for Progress as we seek to learn and work together in this effort. We will continue to partner and collaborate with our community partners to support our students and families. I welcome the opportunity to partner with others who are willing to do so and have not already joined our collective effort.

“Below are additional resources that we have made available to families with the hope and intent that they are helpful to you.

Thank you for allowing me and my staff to serve this community and your children.”

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February 14, 2017

4:30 p.m.

Good afternoon,

Holland Public Schools has received multiple calls from media inquiring about possible Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the city of Holland that may be impacting staff, student and families of Holland Public Schools. As of the time of this written statement, I am unaware, as Superintendent of Holland Public Schools, of any HPS families negatively impacted at this point in time.

I am aware, however, of reports outside of our geographical boundaries that may have been impacted by ICE enforcement activity. As a result, our district crisis team, building administration and staff are on high alert to assist any students or families impacted by ICE enforcement activity. We are currently working with local agencies to support any students and families who might be impacted. We are consulting with legal counsel to ensure protection of our students’ constitutional rights and that students have equal access to education regardless of their immigration or their parents’ immigration status. The immigration status of a child or their parents’ does not impact enrollment in Holland Public Schools.

Holland Public Schools believes deeply in ensuring equity in our school program. Our strategic plan identifies two core beliefs at the heart of this work. We believe that our District reflects the fabric of our growing and changing community and that our policies, practices and programs should as well; and that it is our collective responsibility to champion the prosperity of ALL students regardless of culture, class or community. We have policies in place that prohibit discrimination or harassment of our students on the basis of race, color, national origin and many other protected classes.

I want to ensure our students and families that as Superintendent I will work with our staff to ensure that our students continue to receive a high quality education and support. In HPS I/WE view diversity as a tremendous asset as students from nearly 40 countries come together every day to live, learn, work, perform, compete, challenge thinking and learn from each other. We all prosper when we have the benefits of learning from each other and gain invaluable experiences and perspective. This truly assists in our students in achieving our mission of being “world ready.”

We will continue in our commitment to provide constitutionally protected education to all of our students and we will empathically work to support our students and their families. We will continue to collaborate and coordinate across the sectors in our community that have articulated shared beliefs and commitments to students with respect to their immigration status.

Students or families who may be directly or indirectly impacted by the incidents of today, or into the future should know and be assured that we are here to assist them. Whatever happens, I/We will be here with and for you.

Dr. Brian Davis

 

A 2010 U.S. Census report says about 23 percent of Holland’s residents are Hispanic or Latino.

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Information from:

The Detroit News