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  • Writer's pictureJanet Ferone

"School to Deportation Pipeline" in Boston?!?

UPDATE: Hours after this post, Supt. Chang abruptly resigned from Boston Public Schools.

Imagine living in a country where you face gang and organized crime violence daily, watching family members murdered and knowing you could be the next target to be killed, kidnapped, sexually abused with no help, and often additional harm, from the police. Imagine you are able to seek refuge in the United States and you and your family have settled in Boston where you attend school every day, eager for a good education.

While you initially felt safe in your new school and community, you watch the news of daily deportations, separation of family members, children put in cages. You feel a bit insulated living in the progressive Northeast, but then you see the latest news: Boston Public Schools are being sued by multiple organizations over sharing of information to federal immigration officials (ICE). (Boston Globe 6/22/18) You find out that a student was deported as a result of a school incident report shared with ICE and the school district refuses to reveal how often they give out personal student information to authorities.

You remember being assured by both Supt. Chang and Mayor Walsh in a visit to your school or in public documents stating that all students and their families would be welcome in Boston schools regardless of immigration status, but now you are afraid. You feel betrayed by adults you came to trust. Perhaps you watched as your East Boston classmate who had a verbal, not physical, altercation with another student was taken into custody on unsubstantiated gang involvement and held for 16 months before being deported. What if you have an argument with a fellow student and claims are made that it is gang-related? Would you face the same fate?

As a consultant who works in the Boston Public Schools and served as an administrator there for over 25 years, I have seen the fear on faces of undocumented students and their parents as they worried about being exposed. Yesterday I wrote a blog post on how we must create welcoming environments for all students, particularly in light of the increase in violence and hate incidents against students of color and immigrants. ( Today, with evidence of a potential “school to deportation pipeline”, the need is even greater. Teachers and administrators face a potentially insurmountable barrier to reassure students of their safety in light of these allegations and the school departments continued refusal to disclose the number of police incident reports shared with regional intelligence centers for the past three years.

As an educator, I have seen the determination of students fleeing violence, arriving with little English, and succeeding in school beyond their wildest dreams. Of this year’s 38 valedictorians at Boston high schools, about half were immigrants and there are similar numbers from previous years. Many of their stories are both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

In 2017, a student at a school I’m affiliated with was detained by ICE, facing deportation. A teacher at his school led the charge to fundraise and support him through his legal challenges, raising the $6,000 needed for bond. His next hearing in 2019 will determine whether he stays or returns to his native Guatemala where his mother sent him as an unaccompanied minor for his safety. Thankfully school staff were able to assist him, but this is not sustainable if more students find themselves in similar circumstances.

Our overworked teachers in underfunded schools will be facing these students who will be increasingly afraid to attend school and participate. Having received an email from Roger Brooks, President and CEO, Facing History and Ourselves on “Dehumanization at the Border”, I would like to share this wonderful organization’s resources from his message:

“Teachers and others who search our website ( will find over 150 articles addressing “Global Immigration”—including resources relating to “civic dilemmas”—which help teachers and their students address complicated issues of identity and belonging. Just last week, Facing History issued our annual summer reading list on our blog, Facing Today. In it, Tracy O’Brien, Director of Library Services, highlights two books (Refugee by Alan Gratz and The 57 Busby Dashka Slater), which “challenge readers to resist easy characterizations of people and situations, and instead to reflect deeply on ‘What is justice?’” We also have other materials, such as our teacher-created unit and webinar for teaching the book, Enrique’s Journey, by Sonia Nazario; our unit, My Part of the Story; and individual lessons that teach about exclusionary moments in our immigration history like the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese Internment.

With most schools ended or winding down for the year, we should think about supports for all students, but particularly immigrant students, during the summer and into the next school year.

In Boston, we have multiple sites providing free breakfast and lunch, as well as Guides for Immigrant Students and Families on its website ( Schools should use their social media outreach to connect with students and families who may be fearful of returning their child to school in light of the recent attacks on immigrants and the potential sharing of info with ICE and share community supports.

With school shootings on the rise, this potential “school to deportation pipeline”, along with funding cuts and policy reversals, our students are being attacked from all angles. If our children are our future, we must do better in providing schools where students feel safe enough to tackle the important job of accessing the best education they can.

Boston Globe: Chang, BPS Sued Over Secrecy Surrounding Student Information Sharing with ICE

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