This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
On the evening before Donald Trump would become president, immigration took center stage at the monthly meeting of Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission. And the timing wasn’t coincidental.
A coalition of left-leaning organizations urged the School District of Philadelphia to reaffirm its policies protecting undocumented students, immigrants, religious minorities, LGBT students, and students of color. The organizations also asked for the District to train teachers, administrators, and school police officers so that they’re aware of policies that shield these groups.
They said such action is necessary because the presidential election created a climate of fear.
Kevin Itena, a student at Franklin Learning Center, said many immigrant students were mocked after Trump prevailed in the November election and were told by other students to "pack their bags."
"When we arrived here, we hoped to live free from fear," Itena said.
Baktiar Choubhury, a senior at Central High School, said his mosque had recently been defaced by vandals who spray-painted "ISIS is here" on the door.
"I pray that this type of rhetoric and behavior is neither perpetuated nor encouraged by the School District of Philadelphia," Choubhury said.
To that end, the coalition — which included immigrants-rights groups, the Caucus of Working Educators, and Councilwoman Helen Gym — signed on to a "solidarity campus policy" and asked that the District follow suit.
The document itself contains a number of policies that the District already observes. For instance, the document asks that the District not volunteer information about students to federal immigration officials. It also says that those same officials should not be allowed onto District property "to the fullest extent possible under the law."
The District has long followed those guidelines, said Karyn Lynch, the District’s head of student support services.