By Luis Bravo
On June 22nd, Dr. Tommy Chang resigned as Superintendent of the Public Schools of Boston amidst growing scandals related to immigration and the mishandling of the integration of students and their parents into the school system.
This resignation took place after arriving at an agreement with Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who has been very worried for some time about his fight to achieve significant improvements in the City’s school system.
But this resignation comes at a very convenient moment, and in a very pressured way, because it coincides exactly with the lawsuit against the Boston Public Schools (BPS) by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice in an effort to oblige the school system to hand over documents that are said to have led to the deportation of an East Boston High School student at the beginning of this year.
The Lawyers’ Committee and the Center for Law and Education presented the lawsuit to the City of Boston, BPS, and Tommy Chang, the Superintendent of BPS, in order to get detailed information about the times in which school authorities informed ICE about Boston’s students, since BPS has not complied with their Public Records Request.
The requested documents would include, the lawyers said in the lawsuit, information related to what they claim is the “school system’s disturbing practice of sharing student information with federal immigration officials, including with Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE), via the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC).”
The lawyers added that the Supervisor of Records of Massachusetts “has already ordered BPS to divulge its records related to the connection between the school and the deportation, but BPS refuses to share such information.
The lawsuit is centered on a report about some male students made by an East Boston High school resources officer. The lawyers described the incident as a “current” event and described it as a failed effort to pick a fight. The immigration officials said that one of the students involved had entered the US illegally in 2014, after traveling back from his native El Salvador. The report “was used as evidence against the student in deportation proceedings,” the lawyers said in their statement:
“The subject of the cooperation of public schools with immigration authorities has acquired increased urgency for immigrant families since 2017,” the lawsuit expressed. “As the efforts of federal deportation intensify, the question of how and under what circumstances the public schools are giving information to the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has become even more crucial. The threats to students and their families are real: the Public Records Request in question was made after an incident where BPD shared information with ICE. The public has the right to know to what degree the schools share information
regarding their students via BRIC.”
According to the lawsuit, the group asked the school district various times for this information, with names included. But they asked in vain. District officials told them that they don’t save the type of records that the group wants.
The student in question had a special visa for abused or neglected children and was deported to El Salvador by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The lawsuit specifies that the plaintiffs believe that BPS and the Boston School Police regularly share student incident reports with BRIC.
“As a result, student information is being used by ICE to investigate violations of federal immigration laws,” the lawsuit states.
Chang declined to explain the reasons for his departure, but he indicated that he does not have another job waiting elsewhere.
Mayor Walsh obfuscated. In a press release, he made clear that he was unsatisfied with Chang’s work, saying he had decided that “In the long term, we need an education leader with a tried and true record in development who can gain the confidence of the community in the district’s strategic vision.” But that does not satisfy the expectations of immigrant parents who feel threatened by the school system and send their kids to school fearing that they won’t return home.
The right to a free quality education is guaranteed to each parent and student in all public schools in the United States. Each child has the right to receive an education in this country, without respect to race, nationality, language, gender, or IMMIGRATION STATUS.
Education is essential for the development of each child and for the progress of the community itself. In the US, each child has the right to receive a free quality public education from kindergarten to 12th grade.
All students have the right to enjoy an education without fear and without risk of discrimination or fear of BEING DEPORTED.
Immigrant children don’t need a green card, visa, passport, alien registration number, social security number, or any other type of proof of citizenship or migration status in order to register in a public school.
The right to not be discriminated against illegally: The law protects you and your child from government discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, gender, disability, immigration status (in grades K-12), or nationality.
To guarantee that your child receives an equal education, you are protected under federal law if a teacher or school official treats your child differently due to one of the above factors, or if other students bully your child based on the same factors with knowledge of a school official.
At times, discrimination in public schools can be resolved by meeting with school or district officials and arriving at an agreement with them or elaborating a plan to correct the problem.
The right to review disciplinary actions against your child: suspension and expulsion from school are the biggest punishments that school officials can give to your child. If your child is suspended from school, you and s/he have the right to meet with a school official to discuss the case. If expelled you have the right to a formal meeting, to which you can bring a lawyer. Federal law guarantees the right to these meetings to ensure that your child is not treated unjustly.
“From my point of view, it appears that a federal law that protects and guarantees the right of each child to have a public education has been violated, without any kind of reprisal. For this reason, we demand the authorities and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice to carry this lawsuit out to the ultimate consequences,” said Teresa Rodriguez, mother of a BPS student in East Boston.
“This is a nation of laws, a phrase that they wave in our faces whenever they can, and for that reason, we want to see that all citizens of this nation are required to respect the law equally. A crime has been committed against this student, and we want the full weight of the law to fall, with full force, on those criminals who assaulted him,” said Jorge Ramirez, father of a Mission Hill student.