KNOXVILLE - The national conversation surrounding illegal immigration is prompting some concerns in local schools.
In Knoxville, some worry students are afraid to come to school due to their family's situation. Knox County Schools is acting to reassure them.
The district is handing out a fact sheet that covers a variety of topics: how to handle harassment, and if a child is allowed to come to school if they are an immigrant.
"Whether they are immigrants, whether they have been here for many generations. It doesn't matter,” said School Board District 2 member Jennifer Owen.
Another question on the fact sheet asks if a student or their families’ immigration status can be shared with an outside agency.
“We don't give out student information, we don't have the right to give that out and we won’t give that out,” said Owen.
Sadly, many families don’t know how they are protected.
In 1982, a Supreme Court decision declared that no student can be denied free education because of their immigration status.
"Which is really important when you have families waiting years on asylum status or refugee status, we don't want kids to have years of interrupted schooling while they are in a paperwork limbo,” said Karen Latus, who works with English-learning students through the organization Kindred Futures.
"There’s a lot of concern from families about whether their children will be safe at school,” Latus said. "We have to reach out to families, and explain to them that their kids are welcome at school, safe at school and have a great education just like any kid in our community.”
There are more than 3,000 English learning students in the Knox County School System. According to the KCS website, that number has doubled within the last five years and continues to grow.
Together, those students represent 92 different countries.
Knox County Schools hopes it reassures students and families that school is a haven, no matter their situation.
The document also highlights counseling and translating resources for both students and parents. The district also printed the information in five different languages to make the information accessible to all families.
"To see that there are translations available already that is fantastic because if you think about having to read an important document in any language, even if you've studied it for years, it’s a lot more reassuring to read it in your own language,” Latus said.
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