Resolution affirms Somerville schools as ‘safe and welcoming’

We Are One Somerville Rally

Somerville teacher Jess Yarmosky at the We Are One Somerville rally on Feb. 4.

Everyone is welcome here.

That’s the message behind a strongly worded resolution passed unanimously on March 6 by the Somerville School Committee reaffirming the district’s commitment to all students regardless of their immigration status.

The document, which can be viewed here, resolves to provide a “safe and welcoming learning environment” and to treat all Somerville students equally. It also states that federal immigration law enforcement officers will not be permitted to enter any Somerville public school without the superintendent’s approval or a valid warrant, and the district will not “seek or maintain information regarding the immigration status of any student or family member.”

“I’m so proud of the work our teachers and so many others are doing here in Somerville to support our students and our schools,” said Somerville Teachers Association President Jackie Lawrence.

Somerville is a “sanctuary city,” a designation used to describe communities that limit local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration agents, barring violent crime.

"Regardless of our political beliefs or background, we as educators are all committed to keeping our students safe and protected."

— Somerville Teachers Association President Jackie Lawrence

Safe schools resolutions like the one passed in Somerville are becoming more common since President Donald Trump turned his focus to immigration issues during his first weeks in office. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued an advisory on March 2 reminding public school districts of their obligation under state and federal law to provide all students with equal access to public education.

“This is a great issue to organize around and get members involved,” Lawrence said. “Regardless of our political beliefs or background, we as educators are all committed to keeping our students safe and protected.”

In addition to the resolution, the School Committee voted to modify three district policies to protect undocumented students. The updates are related to interrogation and searches, visitors and student records. One policy change will result in the removal of the “place of origin” field from student data — which makes it harder to determine whether a student is undocumented. Training for SPS educators and staff will also take place.

The resolution is here.