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Austin ISD passes protections against immigration status discrimination

Monday night the Austin ISD school board took steps to make sure students can't be discriminated against based on immigration status. (CBS Austin)

Monday night the Austin ISD school board took steps to make sure students can't be discriminated against based on immigration status.

Education advocates say it's sending an important message to the community -- that educating and protecting kids is the district's first priority.

In June of 2016, former students asked Austin ISD to do more to protect undocumented students.

"They would feel more comfortable in coming out and being who they are and not being ashamed of something that's not their fault," said Daniel Galvan, an AISD graduate who was brought to the United States when she was 8 years old.

Two years later, the school board is moving forward with expanding their discrimination, harassment and retaliation policies. Discrimination based on race, religion, age, sex, gender, gender identity and expression and sexual orientation is prohibited. Now immigration status is being added to the list.

"I think we have to look at our population and what's so important. All you have to do is look at the border and see the horrific issues that are going on down there," says Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, the employee union for AISD. Zarifis says the policy change is a courageous step.

"I think that speaks a lot to the core values of the district. We think that ads another layer of credibility to the district... that we're going to do this regardless of any other district," he says.

Zarifis says protecting kids regardless of their immigration status is the right thing to do and he's proud to see Austin ISD leading the charge in Central Texas.

"It's one thing to do something that's code and law. It's another thing to step out and do something that isn't required," he adds.

The school board unanimously passed the policy change with no discussion around 8:45 p.m. Monday.

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