A divided Reynoldsburg Board of Education approved a resolution last month declaring district schools as a "safe space" for all students -- even those considered illegal by immigration officials.
The resolution says the board is reaffirming its commitment "to ensuring a high-quality education and a safe and secure environment" for all students, regardless of their immigration status.
The resolution states: "The board directs the administration to comply with legal requirements and the district's longstanding practice to protect confidential student information for all students, including refraining from providing such information to government agents or allowing agents to gain access to students on school grounds, unless required to do so by a court order, subpoena, warrant, or other lawfully authorized direction, after giving any required notice to the parent/guardian/adult (in charge of student) and providing any required due process and constitutional protections."
The vote was 3-2, with board members Robert Barga and Neal Whitman opposed, both citing concerns about the board taking a politically partisan stance. Board President Joe Begeny and members Debbie Dunlap and Jeni Quesenberry voted for it.
Barga abstained from voting, and Whitman voted no.
"I can't support the resolution. I do not think it is the proper role of the board," said Barga, an attorney who said his degree focused on constitutional and international law.
Although he "morally supports" the idea behind the resolution, Barga said, the board was "essentially taking a political partisan stance."
Whitman said although he had spoken in favor of the resolution when Quesenberry introduced it in July, he has changed his mind.
"One thing this resolution could do is to protect the children and young adults under our care so they are not deprived of due process, but this resolution reaffirms what we already have on the books," he said. "I think it can and will be perceived as partisan by many.
"We are putting partisanship into a governing body that should not be partisan," Whitman said.
Quesenberry said she proposed the resolution because of the country's "immigration situation involving deportation and the separation of families" but disagreed with calling it partisan.
"Did it come to fruition because of politicians? Yes, it did," she said. "This resolution is nonpartisan, however, and is based solely on morals and ethics and passion for children -- and making sure our children have the best kind of education, regardless of their immigrant status."
Dunlap said she supported the resolution because, "we are 100 percent dedicated to educating all children."
"Although the catalyst for our discussion was that immigrant children were being separated from parents, I will always stand for the children," she said. "I believe we are reiterating our stand to provide all students with a safe learning environment."
According to the National Immigration Law Center website, more than 100 school districts nationwide have passed similar resolutions since last fall.
At least two other Ohio school districts have done so.
The Toledo school board voted unanimously in November 2017 to approve a resolution directing staff members not to disclose a student's immigration status and establishing schools as resource sites for immigrant students.
According to a Nov. 26, 2017 story on The (Toledo) Blade website, the " resolution designates district campuses as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement "safe zones."
The Cincinnati Board of Education approved a resolution in March 2017 confirming the district's "support for all students regardless of immigration status."
The resolution, posted on that district's website, directs the administration "to take all necessary steps to ensure that the district's immigrant students are educated in a safe and secure environment."