Parents Up in Arms After Border Patrol Agents Visit Colorado High School for Career Expo | Westword

Parents Up in Arms After Border Patrol Agents Visit Roaring Fork High School for Career Expo

Glenwood Springs parents will be out in force at the Roaring Fork School District's board meeting on April 12 to call out educators.
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Glenwood Springs parents will be out in full force at the Roaring Fork School District's school board meeting tomorrow, April 12, to call out Glenwood Springs High School educators for inviting U.S. Border Patrol agents to speak at a student career expo last month.

More than half of the students at Glenwood Springs High School during the 2021-2022 school year were Hispanic, according to U.S. Department of Education data, and about 55 percent of the kids in the Roaring Fork School District — which includes schools in Aspen, Carbondale, Basalt and Glenwood Springs — identified as Hispanic during the 2018-2019 school year, according to district officials.

Parents and community leaders are demanding that Roaring Fork take action following the March 21 career expo, which saw at least two Border Patrol agents speaking to kids from a table set up for the controversial agency, according to Voces Unidas de las Montañas, a nonprofit advocacy group representing local families.

Border Patrol was at the high school to talk about jobs within the agency, but its presence offended some students and their families, who have demanded an apology and called on the school board to take action.

School Superintendent Dr. Jesús Rodríguez apologized on March 22 with a written statement: "Though there were not any direct threats that we know of nor any student information that was shared, we recognize that the presence of Border Patrol alone can be intimidating for some students."

Rodriguez added, "We are aware of the trauma and damage that interactions with agencies such as the U.S. Border Patrol can have on some of our students and community. For that, I sincerely apologize on behalf of the Roaring Fork School District."

Glenwood Springs High School principal Paul Freeman also issued an apology, saying he understands that Border Patrol "can create negative feelings," but adding that he didn't know the agency would be at the career expo.

"No high school administrators or counselors were aware that the U.S. Border Patrol would be one of the organizations present at this year's expo — they have not been present in prior years," Freeman said. "At no time were school personnel involved in choosing the businesses who would participate or in making decisions on who would be invited."

The career expo was organized by a group called YouthEntity, a Colorado nonprofit for youth career development. Although each school had a representative working with YouthEntity to plan the expo, administrators didn't know which organizations would attend, according to Freeman.

"If we are involved in planning future career expos, we will be sure there is a more transparent selection process with clear, consistent criteria aligned to our district values," Freeman added. "We understand that being faced with Border Patrol unexpectedly and in a school could have caused dissonance and emotional harm for some students."
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Border Patrol agents speaking to students at Glenwood Springs High School.
Voces Unidas de las Montanas

A similar incident took place in 2011 when school resource officers were accused of being in cahoots with agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to deport students and their families. Parents pushed the district school board to pass a "Safe Haven" resolution. That resolution finally passed in 2016, assuring that "all students have a legal right to an education regardless of any differences, including immigration status."

The resolution further promises that the district's schools "will remain safe and supportive spaces for students and community members, free from intimidation, hostility, or violence, including threat of deportation," and says that the district "will not collaborate with immigration enforcement agencies or share information that could put a student's security at risk."

Now, Glenwood Springs parents are calling for the school board to codify the safe-haven resolution as district policy "to prevent any confusion" and "to further clarify that the district will not invite any federal agency whose mission is to enforce federal immigration laws to any campus" unless required by a court order, according to a list of demands by Voces Unidas de las Montañas.

Parents also want the school board pass a safe-haven policy that applies to schools and third-party organizations working with the district, as well as more training regarding the safe-haven resolution for all district staffers.

In the meantime, they are requesting that the superintendent appoint an ad-hoc committee of "impacted students, parents and community members" to advise him and the school district on what they need to do to regain the community's trust and make sure "this will never happen again."

The Roaring Fork School District's board meeting is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, at 400 Sopris Avenue in Carbondale, according to Voces Unidas.
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