Mary Sweeney

City seeking student sanctuary

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The School Committee adopted a policy to protect students from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“It would be bad if we turned our backs on these kids,” said Oscar Ross, who has a daughter in Lynn Public Schools who dreams of being both a police officer and a cook. “If we don’t give them the chance to be what they want to be.”

Mary Sweeney, a retired teacher, said that during her career, students had to worry about getting their homework done.

“I never faced situations of kids being deeply afraid,” said Sweeney. “I think with the issues of immigration and ICE — it’s a reality.”

The panel voted unanimously to adopt a policy that affirms the schools are safe and welcoming sanctuaries for all students, regardless of their immigration status. The document said the resolutions are intended to ensure that all Lynn Public Schools students have the same right to a free, public education and will be treated equally.

“The mission of Lynn Public Schools is to maintain a multicultural school community dedicated to the realization of the full intellectual, physical, social and emotional potential of its students,” reads the resolution. “The city is enriched and strengthened by its diverse cultural heritage, multinational population, and welcoming attitude toward newcomers.”

Committee member John Ford pointed out that while he agreed with where the resolutions were coming from, he believed they were only reaffirming what the district already does. Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham agreed.

“I believe we have welcoming schools and that our teachers are wonderful and welcoming,” said Latham. “We have not had a case where ICE has come into our schools.”

She added that she believes ICE is restricted from taking immigrants into custody at schools and churches.

“Rather than us saying we already do that, we’ll be able to say that we have a policy for that,” said committee member Donna Coppola. “I think it would be a huge reassurance to our students. Let’s be upfront and be what we are — a proud community — and show others that we care.”

Immigrant-worker march set for Monday

Latham and committee members expressed concerns about a resolution included in the original draft that prohibited federal immigration law enforcement officers, or personnel assisting them, from entering a school building.

“I worry about training teachers not to allow law enforcement to come into the building,” she said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy added that she was “very uncomfortable” with the section of the resolution because it should be recognized that federal law supersedes local law.

“It seems to me that it’s not a valid exercise of a city’s rights in the presence of federal government,” she said.

The panel amended the resolution to state that law enforcement can enter the building, but must remain in the main office until his or her credentials are verified and the superintendent is notified. The vote will be subject to final approval of the language.

Under the policy, the district will not inquire about, record, or request information intended to reveal the immigration status of a student or their family members. They will not disclose private information without parental consent, and staff will refuse to share all voluntary information with immigration agencies to the fullest extent permissible by the law.

All requests for information from a student’s education record will be immediately forwarded to the School Department’s attorney. The motion also noted that the district does not ask for immigration status when families register children for school.

A letter will be sent to parents and staff summarizing the resolutions in simple language. A list of all available resources, including community-based organizations and legal service organizations, will be provided to each student and made available at each school. It will be translated when necessary. Teachers will be trained on the policy before the start of the school year, when they become familiarized with all other policies.

In the next 90 days, Latham will be expected to develop a plan for training teachers, administrators and other staff on the new policy and best practices for ensuring the wellbeing of students, who may be affected by immigration enforcement actions. The plan will be implemented within five months.Legis

A copy of the resolution will be submitted to the Massachusetts Attorney General and to Lynn’s federal, state, and local legislative representatives.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

 

Lynn marchers see hope, but feel doubt

COURTESY PHOTO
A protester, photographed by Christopher John Stephens, raises her sign at the Boston Women’s March for America.

By DAVID WILSON

LYNN — Two little girls have a message to share. It’s written on poster board around a pair of slightly-misshapen hearts, carefully painted in with what looks like a scattering of rainbow-colored puzzle pieces.

"Fight hate with love," and "Love makes America great" are the messages raised up.Allison Hallissey

“Fight hate with love,” and “Love makes America great” are the messages raised up.

“Fight hate with love,” one sign says; “Love makes America great,” the other.

Allison Hallissey, 42, hops in for a photo with her 8-year-old daughter, Lilac and 7-year-old niece, Amore. The girls hold their signs under their chins: a small statement to a fractured country, Saturday at the Boston Women’s March for America.

Across the Boston Common, perhaps, another sign among a sea of others reads, “If you demean one of us, you demean all of us.”

Hallissey, who lives in Amesbury after about 30 years in Lynn, was joined by her mother, a couple friends, and an estimated 175,000 others. The “completely positive” crowd included women of all ages, she said.

The financial adviser at Verizon admits she wasn’t a fan of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. She did, however, vote for the former secretary of State over Republican businessman Donald Trump.

But the march wasn’t just about politics, she said.

Hallissey was standing up for the causes she’s always stood up for, she said: women’s rights, reproductive rights, and safe access to abortion, to name a few.

“Trump has made it clear that these things are very much in jeopardy under his administration,” she said.

Christopher John Stephens of Lynn snaps a photo of two smiling women. One holds a sign, “Twitter is not a platform for diplomacy.” The other wears a T-shirt patterned with Hillary Clinton’s face.

Behind them, in the background, a more cryptic sign is raised: “Extinction is forever,” it says.

Stephens attended the march to document it. After all, he was seeing the birth of a new movement, he said.

Arriving into Boston around 10:45 a.m., the 52-year-old sensed some frustration. But mostly, the march was positive and mobilized; intelligent and focused, he said.

"Twitter is not a platform for diplomacy," one woman's sign said,Christopher John Stephens

Two women pose for a photo at the Boston Women’s March for America.

“This was a march for equality, and unity, and inclusiveness,” he said.

The adjunct English instructor at Northeastern University and Bunker Hill Community College pointed to the “very dangerous perspectives” Trump has toward women and immigrants.

“I have no faith in a Donald Trump presidency,” he said.

But Hallissey is trying to remain open, she said. This kind of openness is something she’s teaching her daughter.

“The best outcome is that he’s a wonderful president,” she said. “I would love to see that.”

Stephens said the often-used political hashtag #notmypresident doesn’t sit well with him. Trump was elected, he said, and he accepts that. But he also believes in the power of people.

“What happens tomorrow? What happens the next day? What happens next week?” he asks. This is not a time to sit and take selfies, he said.

Maria Carrasco was one of about 50 protesters who stood on the steps of Lynn City Hall the night of Trump’s inauguration.

She emigrated from the Dominican Republic to Lynn in 1981. She would become, 26 years later, the first Latina appointed to the city’s school committee.

Now 55, Carrasco represented her “city of diversity,” she said, once more at the march in Boston. “Lynn says no to Trump,” read a sign she clutched with both hands.

“It’s not (just) about Trump; it’s about what he implies,” she said, referencing comments the president made on the campaign trail toward women, immigrants, and people with disabilities.

Carrasco enjoyed “a lot of good energy” at the march. It was an opportunity to get united, she said.

“To me, it showed that we have a lot of people who care about our community,” she said.

Several hundred miles away, a 31-year-old Lynn man was marching in Washington, D.C. It was a “personal investment,”  he said, because oppression toward women affects men, too.

A large crowd rallies at the Women's March on Washington in the nation's capital.Jonathon Feinberg

A large crowd rallies at the Women’s March on Washington.

Jonathon Feinberg attended the Women’s March on Washington, along with some family members. It was his mother’s first protest in decades and his sister’s very first, he said.

An “uncountable” number of marchers took to the nation’s capital for a “beautiful” program that helped weave together a variety of struggles into one narrative, he said.

Feinberg works for the New Lynn Coalition. He also plays in local band Tigerman WOAH. He is Jewish, and for him, that sparks new worry under a President Donald Trump.

Feinberg is “deeply terrified,” he said, of the president’s appointment of Steve Bannon, formerly of media outlet Breitbart News, to his White House staff.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign manager said in a conference call last year that Breitbart “peddles divisive, at times racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-semitic conspiracy theories.”

But Bannon calls the allegations of racism and anti-semitism “nonsense,” according to Breitbart’s website.

So more marches might be ahead for Feinberg. He has participated in anti-war and environmental protests, as well as demonstrations for Black Lives Matter, among others.

Feinberg said he would “absolutely” join in another women’s march. Because under a Trump presidency, the wariness remains. “I think he already showed us who he is, and what he wants to do,” he said.

In Washington, D.C., Feinberg may have passed 54-year-old Kathleen Speranza, who was likely hard to miss in front of the U.S. Capitol. The Lynn artist hoisted a 5-foot-tall enlargement of one of her paintings into the air, reading “America the Beautiful.”

The march “was an extraordinary show of force; a beautiful, nonviolent display of our power as a people,” Speranza wrote Wednesday in an email to The Item.

“This is just the beginning of what will be a long fight for all the progress we have made and the rights that we hold dear,” she said.

This fight is something Jackie Berman knows well. At 65, she has been marching for civil liberties for a “long, long time.” Having to “relitigate” issues like reproductive rights is discouraging and infuriating, she said.

A Lynn resident, Berman didn’t hold back on her criticisms of the new president. His “unconscionable lies … (normalization of) hate groups … (and) sexist comments with no concept of how people live” all factored into her attending the march in Boston.

“Oh my goodness, it was so exciting,” she said of seeing the crowd. “It was enormous.”

Berman supported Clinton after the Democratic primary process concluded. She was originally a Bernie Sanders supporter, but said the idea of a female president was exciting.

“I think she would have been a really good president,” Berman said of Clinton. “She was a candidate I could stand behind.”

One thing the campaigns and election showed, she said, was the “tremendous amount” of sexism that remains in the country.

Semi-retired from the state Department of Developmental Services, Berman is unsure if she will see a female president in her lifetime. But maybe others will, she said.

“I thought we were ready for a female president; I’m certainly ready for a female president,” she said.

Mary Sweeney recently turned 70. A woman who advocates for affordable housing and the environment, she has just one hope for a Trump presidency: that it ends early.

That’s right; Sweeney wants Trump to be impeached. She cites what she claims to be conflicts of interest between his businesses and his policies as president. He doesn’t know boundaries, she said.

Sweeney, of Lynn, didn’t vote for Clinton for president. She knew Massachusetts would go to the Democrat, she said, so she wrote in her favorite: Bernie Sanders.

Sanders lost the state’s March 2016 primary by about 17,000 votes, according to the Associated Press. But that didn’t stop Sweeney from giving a copy of his book, “Our Revolution,” to everyone on her Christmas list.

And in addition to marching in Boston, her activism doesn’t appear to be slowing down. “My march mentality is connected to real life; I don’t just talk about affordable housing … I don’t just talk about the environment,” she said.

But Sweeney said it was also Trump’s attitude toward women that motivated her to march. “I’m convinced we have already taken steps backwards in so many ways,” she said.

A leopard will not change its spots, Sweeney said. In fact, one sign at the march that stood out to her wasn’t a typical protest statement, but a cry for help for the brand-new first lady.

It simply read, she said, “Free Melania.”


David Wilson can be reached at dwilson@itemlive.com.