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APS Affirms Migrant Policy

By Hailey Heinz
Journal Staff Writer
          Affirming a policy that has been in writing since 2006 and in practice since before then, an Albuquerque Public Schools committee voted Monday to strengthen language banning immigration officials from its campuses.
        The revision was passed with no discussion, and was one of nine policies updated at the meeting, part of a monthslong process of bringing the rules in closer alignment with what is actually being done in the schools.
        The ban on immigration officials was laid out in a policy adopted in 2006 but has been inconsistent in the district's written rules.
        The policy was adopted during APS's negotiations with lawyers for three Del Norte High School students from Chihuahua, Mexico, who were detained by the U.S. Border Patrol outside the school in March 2004.
        That incident prompted a policy that banned school employees from investigating students' immigration status or offering any information about a student to immigration officials. The same rule also said school employees must initially deny immigration agents access to students on campus.
        The 2006 policy directs school employees to ask administrators whether any request for information about or access to students by immigration officials is lawful before providing it.
        The policy, which deals with keeping students safe on campus, currently requires "close monitoring" of all campus visitors, including law enforcement, social services and immigration officials. The proposed revision would strike that language and add a sentence that explicitly says, "Immigration officials shall not be permitted on school campus at any time."
        Board member Lorenzo Garcia, who often speaks about the rights of immigrant students, said strengthening the language is a positive move.
        "The important thing is to keep children safe," he said, adding that schools should establish an environment where students and parents feel secure.
        Another policy approved Monday, which board member David Robbins has consistently opposed, deals with contraception at school-based health clinics. The revised wording states that contraception may not be distributed by APS employees; the current language says contraception cannot be distributed at school sites. Officials say this change, which affirms the district's current practice, is necessary under a state law that entitles New Mexicans to confidential health care, particularly with regard to family planning.
        The issue had previously been tabled but returned to the policy committee Monday, where it passed, although Robbins voted against it. All the changes voted on in committee must now go to the full board.
        Acknowledging that the adjusted policy reflects current practice, Robbins said he still doesn't feel comfortable supporting it.
        "Personally, I cannot continue to support this when a parent's rights are not being fully protected," he said. Robbins said a parent's religious rights are violated when school-based clinics provide contraception, and he also said students might fail to consider whether current medications might react negatively with birth control pills or other things that might be prescribed in a school-based clinic.
        The clinics are run by the University of New Mexico in partnership with APS.
        Currently, clinic staff do not dispense condoms and birth control, although they can write prescriptions for birth control or provide a referral to a different doctor, as long as the pills are not dispensed onsite, UNM clinic program director Jennie Charrette said when the issue was first raised.
        In addition to the nine revisions, the committee also approved two new policies, one of which establishes responsibilities for students attending APS. The policy says "students shall be responsible for attending school and participating in the educational process."
        The other new policy, which was added in order to comply with state law, states that APS prohibits the sale, use, possession or transfer of, or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol on school campus or at school-sponsored functions. This was already in the student handbook but wasn't laid out in board policy.

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