In an effort to prevent immigrant students from being detained and deported on questionable evidence of gang involvement, a Long Island school district is taking the lead in negotiating an agreement to limit the role of school-based police officers, reports ProPublica. At a packed, often emotional meeting, the Huntington, N.Y., school board said it has authorized its superintendent to hammer out a deal between the 50 Suffolk County school districts that allow police in schools and the county Police Department. Board president Jennifer Hebert said that without a formal agreement, she would oppose the continued use of police known as resource officers in Huntington’s schools. “We need clarity and guidelines, and if we can’t get those, I’m not comfortable having officers in our building going forward. And many of these trustees feel similarly,” she said. Board member Xavier Palacios called for expunging school suspensions from the disciplinary records of students whom school resource officers reported to ICE. “We must make a wrong right. If our district needs to create a new policy to prevent this from happening again, then we must do so,” he said.
The board members were responding to a story by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine about a student named Alex who attended Huntington High School while seeking asylum in the U.S. After he drew the telephone country code of his native Honduras as well as a devil with horns, a symbol of the violent street gang MS-13 but also Huntington High’s mascot, the school suspended him for gang activity. He was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is increasingly using school records to arrest immigrant students who haven’t been charged with a crime but are suspected of gang membership. Alex was one of dozen immigrant Huntington students detained for allegedly associating with MS-13.