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School Board President Vows to Protect Undocumented Students

“We’re going to do everything we can.”

San Francisco school board president Matt Haney.

This Golden State is a podcast from veteran broadcast journalist Randy Shandobil. Click above to play.

San Francisco magazine and This Golden State podcast are collaborating on “The Resistance,” a portfolio devoted to the agitators, political leaders, and change agents who are fighting the incoming Trump administration on all fronts. San Francisco’s February issue will be devoted to the Resistance, with audio interviews conducted by veteran broadcast journalist Randy Shandobil, host of This Golden State. We’ll be posting Shandobil’s interviews online as they become available. 

After President Trump’s
election, the San Francisco school board came out swinging, in the bureaucratically reassuring way that only a school system can: with an emergency voicemail blast to parents. “This is a message from the San Francisco Unified School District,” began the soothing female voice, “to let you know we are committed to providing a safe space for learning for each and every one of our students including recent immigrants, regardless of immigration status.”

In an interview with This Golden State podcast host Randy Shandobil—conducted before yesterday’s executive order blocking funding to sanctuary cities—school board president Matt Haney discusses the fear that Trump’s election touched off among the school district’s immigrant community. “More than one out of three [of our students] have an immigrant parent; there’s a lot of fear out there,” Haney says. “It’s interrupting the educational experience of our kids. If they are focused on whether or not one of their family members is going to be deported, it’s hard to spend a lot of time on algebra homework.”

Haney’s comments, gathered alongside observations about the local resistance by Mayor Ed Lee, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and Supervisors London Breed and Jane Kim, are pretty reassuring. The school district has a policy of not sharing immigration status with federal officials, which sounds pretty foolproof so long as immigration agents stay off campuses. But that’s not always the case, as Haney acknowledges: “It’s happened in other school districts, in other parts of the country.”

How things will play out if immigration agents actually enter San Francisco public schools is anybody’s guess. On that prospect, Haney is pretty quiet: “I hope it doesn’t come to that.” 

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