Friday, January 25, 2008

Hispanic truancy at 11% after Springfield raids

Public schools educate all students regardless of visa or citizenship status

"We're still accountable for their test scores"

U.S. citizen children among the "vanished"

Students described as scared and distrustful

Unfinished gingerbread house

Update July 2008: Most of the students returned (story here).

Enforcement of immigration law is encouraging citizen and immigrant absences from school, according to this article in the Tennessean. The resulting truancy problem among Hispanic children - regardless of visa or citizenship status - who may have remained in the area and may to return to school at a later date, has been identified by officials in Springfield, Robertson County.

The article quotes Joyce McAllister, a Spanish interpreter at Cheatham Park Elementary, who decribes her Hispanic students as "scared" and "distrustful." She also recounts the story of a child whisked away by her parents while she was building a gingerbread house. Excerpts from the article:

Nearly 11 percent of its Hispanic students have vanished since December, and school officials worry that if they don't return soon, they will be too far behind to succeed on upcoming achievement tests. The 10,500-student district is in under state watch for failing to educate pockets of children, including non-English speakers.

Of the district's 768 Hispanic students, about 60 have formally withdrawn since before winter break, and administrators can't account for an additional 25 to 30, school officials said.

"Thus far, I'm not aware of anyone who has left and re-enrolled," said Danny Weeks, assistant director of Robertson County schools. "We are very concerned about what would happen if these students were to stay away and, assuming they didn't have any education, come back. We're still accountable for their test scores."

Public schools are required by a U.S Supreme Court decision to educate all students regardless of their immigration status, and they don't report that status to law enforcement.

Border Guard Bear

Springfield pastor Guadalupe Ramirez, who leads La Iglesia del Fuente de Redencion congregation (The Fountain of Redemption Church), said many of the children who moved are U.S. citizens because they were born here. He doesn't think they will be back anytime soon.

"If the parents have no work, they have no reason to stay," he said. "If they take these kids back to Mexico, they're going to grow up there, and when they're the right age to come back, they'll miss their whole education that America provides to all kids."

Maury County experienced a similar crackdown on illegal immigration last year that led to at least two dozen arrests, but school officials there say they haven't seen a dramatic drop among Hispanic students.
Classroom photo by Melinda Taber. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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