Op-Ed: Building a More Unified Community in Silicon Valley

I was very proud the night in February 2017 when the San Jose Unified Board of Education passed a resolution in support of immigrant students and families.

The era of anxiety and fear currently being cultivated by the Trump administration had only just begun, and this resolution was a good step toward building greater trust between the district and our community. But I was also disappointed, because I believed the district could have gone further.

The resolution calls for safeguarding the privacy of all students and families—but only up to a point. It includes a provision for training school counselors to support immigrant students, but no trainings for teachers, bus drivers, nutritionists and other school employees who have direct contact with students every day. And it calls on the district to offer resources and referrals, but very little in terms of direct services.

This resolution is a Band-Aid on a broken leg.

In light of our state, county and city passing laws to protect immigrants from racist and xenophobic federal policies, San Jose Unified needs to step up and ensure that all of our students and families feel welcome and supported, both on and off campus. And we don’t need to reinvent the wheel to do it.

I recently came across this piece on EdSource, an education policy website, about programs being offered by Oakland Unified School District to support unaccompanied immigrant students. Their personal stories made me reflect on what San Jose Unified can and should do to truly engage on immigration and other issues that go beyond our schools but have an undeniable impact on our students and families, such as affordable housing, health care and food security.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • The district should provide counseling and other services specific to the needs of immigrant students, particularly unaccompanied minors who lack a support system outside of school. This could “piggyback” on our successful McKinney-Vento program for homeless and foster youth.
  • District leaders should be active participants in conversations with city, county, and state officials around coordinated strategies to protect immigrants in our community and make San Jose more affordable for working families.
  • And the district should state with 100 percent clarity that we will never share the personal information of our students and families with any outside individual or agency. Period. Full stop.

Having worked in district administration until earlier this year, I can predict the refrain from staff in response to this call to action, and it goes something like, “We’d love to do this, but we don’t have the money.” (If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard it before in your own school board room.)

Sadly, it’s the truth.

San Jose Unified doesn’t have the money. But neither does Oakland Unified. They leveraged $5.2 million from Salesforce in addition to state and federal grants. I believe San Jose—the “Capital of Silicon Valley”—can match or exceed what Oakland was able to organize through corporate and community partnerships.

My point is that money should never stand in the way of doing what’s right, and I’m more interested in finding a path to saying “yes” than making excuses to say “no.”

As the cornerstone of community, schools and school districts have a moral obligation to serve as beacons of hope and security for the most vulnerable among us. If we bring all of our students, families, employees, and neighbors together around our common goals and aspirations, we can build a truly “Unified” district.

Peter Allen is a former public information officer for San Jose Unified School District and a candidate for San Jose Unified Board of Education in Trustee Area 2. Opinions  are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].

7 Comments

  1. What kind of a message are you giving our children when you post something like this, encouraging people to break the law and jump the queue of people legitimately trying to come to this country ?

    I am a legal immigrant. My wife is also a legal immigrant. Her brother and his family had to wait 12 years and legally apply to come here. It’s a long process but worth it to follow the law and become citizens of this amazing country.

    Yet you think anyone who can illegally overstay a visa, or sneak over a border should receive the same reward and protection as those of us who followed the rules. What kind of an example are you trying to give ? You disgust me. You are not fit to have a position in education.

    • Jeremy Allison, I noticed that your surname is not that of let’s say Mexican or another ethnic group. Therefore, it is easy for you to cite what you just said. I believe you have no idea, let alone empathy towards anyone other than what you believe you and your family went through. Have empathy and ”understanding” of those “less” fortunate that your selfish self.

  2. > Peter Allen is a former public information officer for San Jose Unified School District

    How did Peter Allen become a “former” public information officer for SJUSD?

    Did he get fired?

    Not that that would be surprising.

    Allen is a shallow lightweight and a perpetual candidate for something-or-other. Anything! JUST VOTE FOR ME!

    You can be sure of one thing: whatever Allen is running for this time, you can be sure he is unqualified.

  3. Mr Allen really needs to clarify that citizens are expected to obey US laws, including deporting illegal border crossers. We have immigration rules which need to be followed. If someone robs your home, they are arrested. If someone crosses the border illegally, they need to be arrested. These are our laws, correct Mr Allen?

    • > If someone crosses the border illegally, they need to be arrested. These are our laws, correct Mr Allen?

      Mr. Altmaier:

      Your question is too difficult. Therefore, it is unfair to ask Allen.

  4. I just read the mean spirited and incorrect comments from Rich Altmaier, THE BUBBLE and I find this to be the thought process of what is called the “ignorant masses” Donald Trump type response to an otherwise extremely sensitive and important human being need. Mr. Allen is a true and sensitive ‘human being’ that thinks of the needs of others less fortunate. Your empathy and understanding beyond the “law” is appreciated. Thank you, Mandy Llamas

  5. I will add that “White and Privleged” by Tim Wise is certainly Not needed here, especially in California. Peter Allen has the needs of children in our school systems at heart and ‘will’ be able to provide the community, schools and the schools the tools needed for the betterment of the children, our future. Now hopefully, you can understand and know that this goes way beyond the comments made regarding ‘laws’ as it relates to immigration. Incidentally, the current border fiasco separating innocent children and displacing/misplacing them is ‘shameful’ no matter what country or border one crosses. Get past the ‘law’ comments will you, please.

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