Assessing the Effectiveness of School District Safe-Zone Policies in Narrowing Achievement Gaps among Minority Students: Evidence from California

Do school district safe zone policies improve academic outcomes for Hispanic and other marginalized students?

Existing literature has documented the negative impacts of intensified immigration enforcement on the educational attainment of students with an undocumented family member and immigrant origin students . The state of California, where 56% of the K–12 student body is Hispanic and 44% come from households headed by immigrants, enacted state law AB 699 in 2017 to ensure access to education free from intimidation or discrimination. In response, school districts across the state have enacted safe zone policies. These policies can improve student outcomes by prohibiting discrimination; lowering the trauma associated with fear of encountering immigration authorities; and providing financial, legal, and academic resources to students and their families—benefits that may extend to racially minoritized students more broadly. Amuedo-Dorantes and colleagues will assess whether, how, and when safe zone policies help reduce the harmful effects of immigration enforcement on the achievement gap for Hispanic students and English Language Learners (demographic identifiers commonly used when data on immigrant status is missing or incomplete). They will use a series of difference-in-differences models to examine whether the implementation of safe zone policies improves outcomes for Hispanic, Black, and English Language Learner students and reduces inequalities for each group compared to non-Hispanic White students. The team will also assess the robustness of their findings. Findings could shed light not only on the question of whether safe-zone policies are effective, but which policy components better support students most likely to be affected by restrictive immigration policies.

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