Immigrant Students: WSSDA Model Policies and SB 5497

Debbi Hardy and Gayle Mar Chun | Strengthening Sanctuary, Olympia
Sep 26, 2019


“It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.”

Section I, Washington State Constitution

Protections for immigrant students, entitling them to a free public education, exist both in the Washington State Constitution and through the 1982 US Supreme Court decision - Plyer v. Doe.

School districts are charged with the duties of protecting students’ constitutional and statutory rights as well as ensuring a safe and orderly learning environment. Ensuring student safety at school, may require administrators to call upon law enforcement, child protective agencies and/or the county health department. All of these agencies have duties and responsibilities related to student safety and some of their roles and authority overlap. Given this overlap of responsibility, maintaining strong cooperative working relationships with these agencies is critical. 

In contrast, the work of immigration agents does not overlap with the work or duties of the school district. The immigration status of children or parents does not threaten school safety nor does it diminish the district’s obligation to educate the children residing within its borders.

WSSDA Model Policy 4310 and Model Policy/Procedure 3226

In December 2018, WSSDA revised model Policy 4310 – District Relationships with Law Enforcement and other Governmental Agencies and Model Policy and Procedure 3226 – Interviews and Interrogations of Students on School Premises. These policies were revised to help school districts comply with their constitutional duty to provide undocumented children with a free education, while also protecting their constitutional rights. 

Some school districts have already updated these policies. Regardless, as school leaders, it is important for you and your staff to know the district protocol should an immigration officer request admittance to your school or information on a student.  In other words, school district/building guidelines should be developed for “What to do if ICE shows up at your school.”

The WSSDA policy revisions also suggest the importance of a written memorandum of understanding (MOU), if a district engages the services of a Student Resource Officer (SRO), to clarify the district’s/school’s relationship with the SRO, including the SRO’s purpose, role, supervisory structure and limitations on access to students. 

Senate Bill 5497 – Keep Washington Working

At the close of the 2019 legislative session, Governor Inslee signed the Keep Washington Working Bill into law. The new law enhances public safety, promotes fairness to immigrants and protects the privacy and civil rights of all Washington residents.

State and local law enforcement agencies, school resource officers and security departments may not provide non-public information to federal immigration authorities for civil immigration enforcement unless required by law.

The Attorney General’s Office is charged with the responsibility of writing a model policy to address the new law. At this time, the AG’s office is reviewing the policy models developed by WSSDA and gathering input from stakeholders across the state. The model policy will be completed by May 21, 2020. 

Read the corresponding article, "Feeling the Impact: The Toll of Immigration in Schools" by Debbi Hardy and Gayle Mar Chun.

Debbi Hardy, Retired Director of Curriculum and Staff Development
Gayle Mar Chun, Retired Principal. 
Both are members of Strengthening Sanctuary, Olympia

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