March 30, 2023

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 28, 2016) — Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA), together with more than 120 community, education, health, faith, labor, student, and parent organizations in California, has released an open letter calling on California’s educational leaders to address the growing fear around deportation and the troubling spike in hate crimes, incidents, and bullying in K-12 schools and on college campuses since the election of Donald Trump.

Coordinated by the College for All Coalition, the open letter calls for safe, inclusive, and equitable learning environments for California students, especially those who are most vulnerable.

The President-elect campaigned on a promise to deport undocumented immigrants and, since election day, has stated that his Administration will seek to deport up to three million individuals, generating significant fear across diverse immigrant communities. In addition, hate incidents have been on the rise in recent months.

Even before the November 8 presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported that more than two-thirds of 2,000 K-12 teachers surveyed nationwide said that students – mainly immigrants, children of immigrants, and Muslims – expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election. In the aftermath of the election, these fears have been exacerbated with widespread reports of a disturbing increase in the targeting of students of color and of immigrant, Muslim, LGBTQ, differently abled, and female students in schools and on college campuses across the nation and in California.

“We in California have an obligation to counter bigotry and hate by protecting the safety and well-being of our diverse students and their families,” stated Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director of Advancing Justice-LA. “The spike in hate crimes and incidents in the wake of the presidential election and the President-elect’s threats to deport three million immigrants are extremely troubling and antithetical to our values as a nation and as a state. We call on California’s educational leaders to rise to the challenge and ‘go all in’ to put our values of diversity, inclusion, and equity into action for our state’s students, families, and communities.”

The open letter urges California’s K-12 and higher education leaders to protect vulnerable students who are being targeted in this current climate, particularly students of color and immigrant, Muslim, LGBTQ, differently abled, and female students, and to transform this into an opportunity to support educators, students, and their families in promoting diverse and welcoming learning environments by:

• Designating all K-12 public schools and colleges and universities to be sanctuary schools and campuses;
• Allocating adequate resources and support to promote diversity, inclusion, and positive intergroup relations; and
• Protecting all California students from being bullied, intimidated, harassed, or discriminated against on the basis of protected categories.

While some K-12 districts and higher education institutions have already indicated they plan to take steps to protect undocumented immigrant students, the open letter offers specific recommendations for sanctuary schools and campuses, including prohibiting access to federal immigration officials unless there is a judicial warrant and guaranteeing privacy and refusing to release information regarding the immigration status of students, staff, and community members.

The open letter also recognizes and expresses concern that other vulnerable student populations, such as students of color and Muslim, LGBTQ, differently abled, and female students, have experienced a rise in hateful bullying and intimidation. The letter makes a broader call to ensure the safety and well-being of all students, and for California’s educational leaders to invest resources to increase the capacity of educators, students, and their families to develop and implement strategies that reduce prejudice, address implicit bias and stereotyping, and promote positive intergroup relations.

The letter is being sent to State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, California State Board of Education President Michael Kirst, University of California President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy White, and incoming California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. Members of the College for All Coalition also will be delivering the open letter to their local school districts and colleges and universities.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles is the nation’s largest Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) legal and civil rights organization and serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year. Founded in 1983 as the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Advancing Justice – LA’s mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society. Through direct legal services, impact litigation, policy analysis and advocacy, leadership development and capacity building, Advancing Justice – LA seeks to serve the most vulnerable members of the AANHPI community while also building a strong AANHPI voice for civil rights and social justice.

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