Metro Nashville Director of Schools Shawn Joseph says President Trump’s executive orders on immigrants and refugees are causing concern for foreign-born families and staff.
In his two orders on border security and interior enforcement, President Trump called for allowing state and local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with federal immigration officials. However, schools are likely to be unaffected, at least directly. A 1982 Supreme Court ruling prohibits school systems from denying children a free public education based on immigration status. In a 5-4 decision, the court found in Plyler v. Doe that doing so violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
A federal judge has blocked for now a third executive order temporarily barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending the nation’s refugee program.
In a Jan. 30 statement, Director of Schools Joseph sought to reassure those troubled by the three executive orders by expressing the district’s commitment to welcoming immigrants and protecting Muslim students from hate speech.
“As a public school district, it is our responsibility to ensure that our schools are safe spaces where all children are supported not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well,” Joseph said.
In October, the Metro Nashville school board passed a resolution that “condemns hate speech and violence directed at Muslims, immigrants and people of color.” The resolution said there are about 30,000 Muslims living in Nashville and Davidson County and about 2,000 Muslim students in Metro Nashville Public Schools.
The resolution calls for a school environment that “promotes respect for and curiosity about all religions and cultures” and for an “educational curriculum that reflects the values expressed in this resolution via professional development of faculty and staff, the inclusion of diverse resources to supplement in-class curricula, and the creation of safe spaces for students to address issues of discrimination.”
Despite concerns nationally about a supposed escalation of hateful rhetoric and violence against Muslims, some of the cases alleging abuse have turned out to be hoaxes. In addition, generosity toward Muslims is often ignored or downplayed. In Texas recently, Christians, Jews, and others turned out to support Muslims whose Islamic center was destroyed in a fire.