Skip to content

Despite GRPS claims that they are not partnering with Homeland Security, Immigrant Justice groups question the real purpose of the proposed academy

January 16, 2019

Yesterday, MLive posted a story about immigrant justice groups challenging the Grand Rapids Public Schools about a new proposed school career program.

This action was organized by members of Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE, because of information from a January 5th MLive article which stated that GRPS would be offering new education/career programs and one of them would be called the Academy of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity. 

Yesterday, the immigrant justice groups held a press conference outside of City High School on Plainfield, since there was an event planned for that location by GRPS, which was then cancelled due to weather. However, Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE still help a press conference. The groups had intended to hand out information to parents, some of which the January 15 MLive article included. However, it is important to include the full statement, which says:

To the GRPS School Board, Superintendent, and Administration:

In MLive articles dated on August 22, 2018 and January 5, 2019, it was revealed that GRPS is planning an Academy of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity among six employment-based academies at Ottawa Hills High School. Many are hearing about this for the first time.

We in the immigrant community who have trusted GRPS daily with our children are shocked and devastated that the school district is planning this academy.  In working with Movimiento Cosecha GR and the immigrant community at large, you’ve made it appear that you are on our side. In fact, on September 5, 2017, the GRPS Board of Education introduced a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to immediately act to restore the DACA program.  Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal was quoted on WZZM 13 saying, “It isn’t just about removing one person, you will affect an entire community when that happens….These are our neighbors. These are people in our community. And we can’t say that this is okay — we cannot believe this is okay.”

Yet with this action of creating an academy to funnel neighborhood children into jobs that are designed to terrorize, kidnap, and harm our family members, you are showing that you are clearly not on our side and you are not on our children’s side.

Local law enforcement is also complicit with ICE and the Department of Homeland Security, as evidenced by the Kent County Sheriff’s contract with ICE.  

We stand with all communities of color who have been harmed by over-policing of our communities and police violence against children like the Michigan 5 and Honestie Hodges.

As the parents and students of your school district:

  • We want you to immediately dismantle all plans to open this Academy of Public Safety, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity.
  • We also demand that the GRPS Board of Education make a public statement calling for the End of the Contract between Kent County and ICE.

We need to see action on both these demands by the February 4 board meeting.

We would remind you that we expect better from the school system that we support with our taxes and our engagement.  We expect a true community-based education where our children can explore ways to learn and live together that are truly just: ways that are cooperative and that focus on restorative justice. Our children could learn how to organize for movements like our own. What we cannot have is our tax dollars going to support an institution that is complicit with ICE, an agency that terrorizes and separates our families. We will not stand for it and neither will our children.

In response, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Communication Director, John Helmholt stated in the MLive article, the academy has ‘’absolutely nothing to do with ICE nor the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The district has not, does not, and is not planning to have a partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.’’

This statement from Helmholt was gleamed from a larger statement that he sent to parents, a statement worth reading here:

The letter from GRPS states, “The district has not, does not, and is not planning to have partnership with the US Department of Homeland Security.” If this is true, then this should be clarified further by talking with the community about what exactly this Academy of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity will actually offer students.

Also, the statement says that the purpose of this academy was to “develop a diverse talent pipeline for the Grand Rapids Fire Department and the Grand Rapids Police Department. The homeland security portion of the proposed academy is focused on JROTC and cyber-security.

Since when do public schools create programs especially designed to encourage students to become police officers? Being a law enforcement officer in this community also means that they cooperate and therefore are complicity with ICE arresting and detaining immigrants. This means that encouraging students to be cops is like saying that you can have a job that would likely result in you being part of arresting and detaining members of your own immigrant community.

It should also be stated that JROTC is proven to be a program that primarily targets black and latinx students from urban areas, in what the counter-recruitment community identifies as an economic draft. The military representatives that run JROTC make all kinds of promises to participants about economic incentives, but rarely talk about how they might be involved in oppressing communities of color around the world, often in countries where their parents originally came from. 

Therefore, even if the Department of Homeland Security will not be involved in the new academy (which is still in question), it appears that the academy will be directing students to career opportunities that will likely result in their participation in the repression of their own communities.

Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE has invited the community, particularly the affected community, to come to an information session to be held at the Hispanic Center, on Wednesday, January 23rd, beginning at 6pm. 

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: