OLN Spring Leadership Institute Draws on Student Voices, Focuses on Student Safety in Uncertain Times

Date 

April 24, 2017

Social 

DACA student panelists speaking at the OLN institute
Scene from the stage during the DACA student panelists' presentations

“We came here for a good life but have been called useless, a threat to society, a burden, delinquents. We are told we are not good enough. But this country was built on immigrants. That’s what you have taught us. ... I need to know that we are going to be supported, that we are going to have resources—and that the immigration department isn’t going to come to our schools. My peers don’t know that, and the fear keeps growing. I want them to feel supported like I do. I want them to feel they are worth it. I want them to know they can do great things.”
—Student panelist at the OLN spring leadership institute

Oregon Leadership Network (OLN) events always focus on equitable education outcomes for all students. Given the current political climate, this year’s OLN spring leadership institute also provided educators with actionable steps they can take to support the safety of undocumented students.

At the April 5 event, which was co-sponsored by Northwest Regional Education Service District, University of Oregon Professor Charles Martinez delivered a keynote address focused on how educators can take action as leaders for equity.

Martinez said “it is not a political act” to support the safety and well-being of students, families and educational professionals who are vulnerable.

He also said educators should articulate their values as a first step toward taking action.

"Silence is not acceptable for us," Martinez said. “[But] our words matter less than what we do.”

The OLN spring leadership institute also featured a panel of students who have been affected or whose families have been affected by current immigration policies.

The students ranged from a high school sophomore to a recent college graduate, and they all discussed the uncertainty and fear they feel, as well as the need for adult allies at school.

The students also expressed a need for educators—in particular, school counselors—to have more information for undocumented students about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, navigating their postsecondary options and financing their education.

“You are probably wondering how you can help and how you can assist us, and my answer is this: Talk to us. I crave attention and communication from you guys. And I want to know that you are here to help me and have resources available. I can’t come up to you because I am too afraid. I am conditioned to be afraid.”
—Student panelist at the OLN spring leadership institute

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum also spoke at the OLN spring leadership institute, and she emphasized the role of state-level action as it relates to federal immigration policy.

“… Immigrants are a valuable and essential part of our state. It’s necessary and essential to build and maintain a relationship of trust between Oregon’s immigrant communities and public bodies,” she said. “This trust is threatened when public bodies are forced to collude with immigration officials, and it produces fear among the immigrant and even broader community.”

Rosenblum mentioned three takeaways for educators who are concerned about the safety of undocumented students and their families:

  • Oregon can be a sanctuary state while complying with federal immigration law
  • Federal immigration enforcement officials must comply with their own policies—which include not engaging in enforcement activities at sensitive locations, which include schools
  • Student and family privacy rights still exist, and confidential educational information remains protected

Other speakers at the OLN spring leadership institute included Lindsey Capps, Oregon’s chief education officer; Rob Saxton, superintendent of Northwest Regional Education Service District; Salam Noor, Oregon’s deputy superintendent of public instruction; and Matt Utterback, superintendent of North Clackamas School District and the 2017 National Superintendent of the Year.