First major piece of legislation: Sanctuary Cities

Governor Abbott has signed into law SB 4, the first significant piece of legislation to emerge from the 2017 session—the so-called “Sanctuary Cities” bill.  This bill authorizes employees of “campus police departments” and “local entities” to inquire into a person’s citizenship status when making an arrest or a “lawful detention.”  Importantly, however, this will not affect the conduct of employees of school districts or open enrollment charter schools.  The term “campus police departments” is limited to higher education; and the term “local entity” does not include school districts.

Moreover, the bill includes a very specific exclusion of K-12 entities:

 This subchapter does not apply to a school district or open-enrollment charter school, including a peace officer employed or contracted by a district or charter school during the officer’s employment with the district or charter school or while the officer is performing the contract. This subchapter does not apply to the release of information contained in education records of an educational agency or institution, except in conformity with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (20 U.S.C. Section 1232g).  Texas Government Code 752.052(d).

Our immigration laws are enforced by the federal government.  SB 4 now empowers state and local officials to assist with this.  But it conspicuously leaves public schools out of the picture.  All students residing in Texas have a constitutional right to attend the public school, regardless of citizenship status or the legality of their entry into the country.  This was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plyler v. Doe (1982).  In order to safeguard that right, it is important for public school employees to refrain from making inquiry into these matters.

SB 4 seems to recognize this.  This law does not empower or encourage school employees, including SROs, to assist in enforcing our immigration laws.  All employees should comply with school district policy on the matter.  Furthermore, if the school receives a request for records pertaining to a student, the release of those records can only occur in conformity with FERPA.

This fall I will be conducting my annual Back to School tour, which will feature a comprehensive review of new legislation.  No doubt we will be talking about this bill and its implications for public school educators.  Registration for the BTS  program is now open at


 File this one under: LEGISLATION: 2017