Eight Oklahoma County teachers recently attended the 18th annual PACE (Programs Advancing Citizenship Education) Institute put on by the Oklahoma Bar Association at the Reed Conference Center in Midwest City.
Participating teachers were Julia Cook, Central Middle School of Edmond; Beth Evans, Edmond Memorial High School; Michael Harris, Southeast High School; Kyla Kaufman, Telstar Elementary; Cindy Persons, Oklahoma City Adult Learning Center; Amber O’Brien, Westmoore High School; Briget Powell, Ruth Dropkins Headstart; and Candace West, Oklahoma City Public Schools.
The teachers received full scholarships to attend the institute.
“The goal of the PACE Institute is to help Oklahoma students become better informed and more active citizens,” OBA Law-related Education Coordinator Jane McConnell said in a press release. “We expose teachers to various topics in citizenship education and help them develop more creative methods for presenting the material to their students. We also encourage them to develop and share their own strategies in teaching law-related education.”
During the week, participants examined the various aspects of the Oklahoma judicial system, tribal courts, citizenship education and public policy. Court visits, workshops and speakers also were part of the week.
The teachers were teamed with mentors experienced in civic education.
I attended a session this afternoon at Sandy Garrett’s leadership conference, an annual gathering of educators, that dealt with how the anti-illegal immigration law that passed this session will affect schools.
To educators’ relief, the answer appears to be: not much. So says Teresa Rose, an attorney with the Center for Education Law in Oklahoma City.
Rose said it was her understanding that legislators mitigated the bill’s effects on schools. It does apply to school districts as it does to other employers by requiring them to verify the immigration status of employees; that shouldn’t be a surprise.
Regarding students, however, things are different. Schools can’t ask about immigration status and must offer education regardless. This has been around for some time and stems from court decisions.
Rose said schools that issued ID cards or other documents could continue to do so, and didn’t have to verify immigration status, but had to ensure language was clearly printed on the front of cards that specified they were to be used only for that campus, district, building, etc., and not as a legal form of ID.
A section of the law that deals with bus and other forms of transportation is contravened because schools can’t check immigration status. If a school can’t check status, there’s no way it can know whether an illegal immigrant is riding the bus, the reasoning goes.
“The way (the law) impacts you as school districts is pretty limited,” Rose said.