Superintendent Addresses School Climate and District Policy on Immigration Issues

John Bowes
Dr. John Bowes

On Wednesday, at the community forum on the City of Davis’ Sanctuary City Status, Superintendent John Bowes explained the district’s policies on immigration issues and announced he would be addressing this issue at the school board meeting on Thursday.

“The recent national election has left our country and community divided on many fronts,” he said on Thursday.  “This division has led to a myriad of emotional responses among members of our school community.”

He said that one key concern “is the possibility of any future federal immigration policies that might affect undocumented individuals and/or their children – some of whom live in our school boundaries and attend our schools.”

Superintendent Bowes said they were taking this issue seriously and planning to take a comprehensive approach.  “It is important to us to try to understand the real implications of any actions we would propose to take at the local level.

“Our primary goal is to ensure that our schools are safe and secure learning environments both for students and staff.  We care about their physical, emotional and social health,” he said.

He referenced an op-ed from October where he talked about the need to create “environments where all students flourish.”

He wrote, “We know that an achievement gap has existed for a long time in Davis, like it has across our nation. This gap has lasting effects for youth as they progress through life. It is our duty to change this situation.”

He also noted that “school is not just about excelling in academics. We must meet the social and emotional needs of students for effective teaching and learning to take place and for students to reach their full potential.”

In a letter to parents following the election, he noted that “the presidential election has excited emotions across our country, our state, our community and within our schools. It has caused dissension among students and even a student demonstration on our senior high school campus.”

He noted, “Current events have also given us the opportunity to reflect and review our policies and procedures to ensure we have the right measures in place to ensure safety and protect student first amendment rights, while maintaining and prioritizing the orderly operation of school.”

Adding, “As parents and guardians, your child may have expressed strong feelings of conflict, fear and/or vulnerability. These are real emotions that may continue to exist among many in our community for some time. School is a place where every child should feel safe, welcome and connected.”

On Thursday, Superintendent Bowes continued, noting his comments at the forum on Wednesday.  He said he met with community members and leaders engaged on the issue of “how to reduce fear and anxiety in our community.”  He said, “Please be assured we are and will continue to address this issue.”

John Bowes also noted the press conference from last week, which he attended, on the hate letter delivered to the Islamic Center of Davis.  The clear message, he said, is “we will not stand for this.”

His message was similar to the DA’s, noting “if you see something – say something.”  “Safety on the play grounds, in classrooms, and in schools and in our community is a vital, mutual interest which we must all play apart.”

He noted the attempted abduction of a 12-year-old girl in town.

The police sent out a notice that the 12-year-old said “while she was walking home from school, a subject jumped out from behind a fence and grabbed her wrist. She reported that she was able to pull away and run away and hide in some bushes where she phoned her father. Her father picked her up and reported to police. The victim was not injured.”

The police say the subject, last seen running south on Oceano Way, was described as a white male, 25 years old, 6 to 6-4 in height with average build, short black hair and brown or hazel eyes. According to the victim he was wearing a black mask covering his mouth and nose, black gloves, a black jacket, black pants and grey shoes.

John Bowes said, “We can make our community safer by creating safe spaces across Davis for our youth.  This includes making our schools and communities free from hate speech and harassment.  We know that fear and anxiety are stressful and inhibit students’ ability to learn.  Schools are and will continue to be safe and secure learning environments.”

He stated, “The district has not collected nor will it collect information regarding the immigration status of students.”

Dr. Bowes cited the 1982 supreme Court decision, Plyler v. Doe, a landmark decision holding that states cannot constitutionally deny students a free public education on account of their immigration status.

The case, he said, “ensures that all students, including immigrant students have a fundamental right to a public education.”

With that decision, he explained, there are protections for student privacy.  He said that the district does not and will not provide information about their immigration status and, if asked, they are not required to collect nor do they share that information.

He noted that, while discussing any federally controlled issue, “we need to be cognizant of our federal funds.”  Currently, federal funding supplies about five percent of the district’s annual budget.  $3.2 million in federal funds go to students receiving special education, English Learner, Perkins Grant, free and reduced meal programs.

“Many of the students receiving these programs are students caught in the achievement and opportunity gap.  Some students rely on our schools for one to two meals per day,” he said.  “We know students know best when their basic needs are met.  We do not want to lose any funding for any of these critical programs which serve students across the district including many undocumented students.”

John Bowes said that DJUSD is not the first district to deal with these issues – he said a number of districts have adopted some sort of safe schools resolutions.  He said their goal is to craft a resolution that is “meaningful and reflects our Davis community.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts


  1. hpierce

    David… it my understanding that DJUSD is mandated to hire only those who can provide proof of “right to work” vis-a vis immigration status…  if an applicant fails to be able to do that, don’t think DJUSD needs to report that failure to other, but am not sure…

    Students are a different matter… I did not see the distinction made in the article… perhaps the Supe did not speak of it?

  2. MrsW

    I am heartened to see DJUSD take school climate seriously. It is my hope that DJUSD doesnt just come up with a list of good/bad behaviors and words with corresonding punishments, running thoughts and ideas underground. I would like to see them actually do the work to help develop young people with sound judgement and confident in their own ability to handle life’s conflicts.

  3. Misanthrop

    Bowes was awesome. You should post a link to his prepared remarks. Some felt he should be more expeditious but I think he struck the right balance of signaling that he will protect the kids while moving deliberately so as to try not to put the district’s finances in jeopardy.

    1. quielo

      The comments were a little crazy, no doubt reflecting a sense of panic. Even Lucas Frerichs, pushing for immediate action, said something like “while we don’t have a final understanding of new policies”. I was thinking this guy must be nuts. We have no idea whatsoever what policy changes are coming and what strategies may be employed to attempt to enforce those policies.

      There were also a number of comments that were some permutation of “we should change everything we do to encourage other districts to do likewise” which may earn them brownie points in their political and social circles but I don’t see how that consideration is in the interest of Davis students.

      What nobody addressed was why we should run around crazy when federal policies are a slow process regardless of who is in power.

      Bowes was much more measured in his statement of principals and seemed less likely to make rash decisions.

        1. David Greenwald

          I get that you disagree that people should be fearful, but in the last month and a half, what exactly has changed to give those who had discomfort, comfort?

        2. quielo

          “I get that you disagree that people should be fearful”

          There is a big difference between being fearful (or vigilant) and demanding policy changes in reaction what you imagine might happen. Lucas Frerichs really should know better but I guess he is so pleased with the battle over Gandhi is looking to stay in the center of attention.

        3. Misanthrop

          “Lucas Frerichs really should know better but I guess he is so pleased with the battle over Gandhi is looking to stay in the center of attention.”
          Lucas didn’t vote to reopen the Gandi issue and waste lots of staff  time empowering a bunch of disgruntled people to disrupt and make a scene. It was Robb Davis and Brett Lee that voted to reopened the issue months after a unanimous vote by the council to place the statue in the park. If you want to take gratuitous shots at people you should at least get your facts straight.

    2. South of Davis

      I wonder if the DJUSD will consider hiring illegal aliens to replace union workers that quit or retire.  It would be a win win where the social justice people on the left feel good and the fiscally conservative people on the right get more work for less money.

        1. Barack Palin

          Fed Gov’t wouldn’t stand for it

          That’s laughable.  In California and Davis all the talk now is about no longer following Fed rules.  How long before Fed hiring rules get thrown out by local activists?  After all, it’s not very liberal of you if you discriminate against hiring illegal aliens.

          1. David Greenwald

            You should have come to listen to the Chief speak on Wednesday. What we do in Davis is follow the state laws. Davis Police enforce state, not federal laws.

        1. South of Davis

          It is interesting that most of the well educated and those whose jobs are protected by unions want more illegal aliens to get cheaper gardeners and cleaning ladies while most people without a lot of job skills (who don’t have gardeners and cleaning ladies) want to “build a wall”…

        2. hpierce

          Oh, SOD and David… no polling data needed… people don’t care, if they they are legal or illegal immigrants… they just care about “price”, and paying minimum wage (or less), no SS/MC, paying cash so it’s off-the books, etc.

          Minimum wage laws say nothing about citizenship (citizen, permitted/undocumented status).  There are not 3 minimum wages… Yet, … those who will exploit, for any reason, will exploit…

        3. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > You’ve said this many times, can you show

          > me the polling that backs this up.

          Do you think that:

          1. The well educated and those whose jobs are protected by unions are begging Trump to build a wall?

          2. The poor and uneducated are writing letters to the president elect saying we want a million more unskilled people that will take our jobs?

          or are you looking for polling data that shows 1. the rich and well educated have more gardeners and cleaning ladies than 2. the poor with little education?

        4. South of Davis

          hpierce wrote:

          > SOD… may or may not be true,but inapplicable to DJUSD…

          > appears you have another “bee in your bonnet” unrelated

          > to the DJUSD topic.

          My in laws are super active in a South Sac church that has a lot of illegal aliens and like us they are raising bi-lingual kids.  It bums me out that with our current messed up system I can’t leagally hire any of these hard working immigrants after meeting them.  Like all of my grandparents most of them left their home country to come to America and work hard.  It also bums me out that most of the well educated people I know (most of who did not grow up poor) seem just fine paying people less than minimum wage and are happy to see the DJUSD and UCD educate a next generation of better educated just as hard working “dreamers” that they can exploit knowing that they won’t legally be allowed to work in America (or complain about poor working conditions).

        5. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > I take it you don’t have data to back up your theory.

          I take it that you know I am correct and can’t even take the time to pretend that a single point I have made is not true.

  4. hpierce

    SOD… thank you for sharing about “the bee”… NOW I understand your perspective much better (now I “get” your comment)… people who are “undocumented”, but wish to contribute to and participate in our society (and its institutions, public and private)… there should be “paths to immigration” other than deportation and “stand in line, take a number” for those already here…

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for