School Board chair Teree Caldwell-Johnson shares the following statement on behalf of Des Moines Public Schools in recognition of World Refugee Day:

Some people derisively refer to Iowa and the Midwest as ‘fly over country.’ But the truth is, in many ways, here in Des Moines we are at the center of the world.

Each and every day more than 4,000 students born in a hundred different nations outside of the United States attend our public schools. Over 1,500 students came with their families to our community as refugees. And of the nearly 33,000 students who attend Des Moines Public Schools, more than one out of five are an English Language Learner.

The richness of ethnic and cultural diversity in our schools adds strength to our community. At a time when our nation being a beacon for immigrants and refugees is a source of debate, I am proud that our school district has embraced those who come here from around the world. And that we have done more than just voice our support, but have taken action.

DMPS declared itself a ‘sanctuary’ to let all students know that are schools are a safe haven for them, and to set district-wide parameters in responding to immigration issues.

DMPS held forums to help refugee and immigrant families new to the community learn about their legal rights and responsibilities as residents of Des Moines.

DMPS sponsored programs specifically for new refugees to learn about our schools and become acclimated to the community.

These are just a few of the things we do in addition to being home to Iowa’s largest ELL program.

As I have said before, when a child in Des Moines shows up at our schools – no matter their place of birth or religion or language or skin color – they should know that they belong here and we stand by them. We are proud to educate students from around the globe, and will do everything we can to make all 33,000 of our students feel welcomed and supported in our schools.

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