This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Since Donald Trump’s election, the School District of Philadelphia has been training staff to better deal with the anxieties facing immigrant families. But one group says the district hasn’t gone far enough, fast enough.
Representatives from the Caucus of Working Educators, an activist group within the city’s teachers’ union, joined with other advocates Thursday to demand mandatory training so school staff can better shield and comfort immigrant students. The advocates demanded the district provide this training for all employees before the start of the 2017-18 school year.
District officials said it would be difficult to achieve that in the timeline provided for all 17,000 district employees, but vowed to implement mandatory trainings eventually.
In the meantime, officials say, the district has already trained all school counselors and police officers on how to deal with immigration officers, offered voluntary trainings, and is urging principals to circulate fact sheets on immigration enforcement, among other actions.
The topic of immigrant students in Philadelphia schools has surfaced frequently in the months since Donald Trump swept into the White House promising a crackdown on illegal immigration. Just over 10 percent of district students speak English as a second language, and the city’s public schools educate thousands of immigrant children.
The transition to Philly schools can be trying, several students said Thursday during testimony.