State education officials are reminding school authorities they cannot require parents to release their children's immigration status. The guidance comes as existing immigration enforcement law in Tennessee becomes more stringent this week.
Under current state law, no local government is allowed to offer “sanctuary” or protection for undocumented immigrants. But this week, a new law is going to effect in Tennessee that broadly prohibits any government official from refusing to comply with federal immigration laws.
Virginia Pupo-Walker, a member of the Metro Nashville Public Schools Board says many parents are concerned this new law would result in children who are undocumented being removed from schools.
"We have many families that are very worried about that, that the intent of this law is to empower every resource officer on a K-12 or university campus to enforce that," Pupo-Walker says.
But under federal law, schools are not allowed to reveal a student’s immigration status without parental permission or force them to give that information up.
State education officials have already sent out a guidance to school authorities on students’ privacy rights, including noting that "school personnel ... should be aware that they have no legal obligation to enforce U.S. immigration law."
Pupo-Walker wants the Nashville school board to further address parental fears. "We do plan, as far as I’m concerned, on making a public statement to families," she said.
Pupo-Walker says the Metro Nashville Police Department and the Davidson County Sheriff's office told the board it doesn’t plan on changing any of its immigration practices at schools. Both law enforcement agencies have been unable to confirm that communication to WPLN.