When nine parents or guardians of students in the Honey Grove Independent School District in Texas were recently detained during a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid at a trailer manufacturing plant, Superintendent Todd Morrison wanted to tell the students himself before they heard about it on social media, according to an article by The Hechinger Report. He raised money for the families and gave them Visa gift cards that could help tide them over until help could arrive, and in the weeks after, he accompanied them to seek legal advice and made counselors available to students.
In the wake of President Trump’s crackdown on immigration, districts across the nation are dealing with how such raids and threats of deportation affect students. If a child’s home life is thrown into a crisis, Morrison told The Hechinger Report, learning becomes difficult, and organizations such as the American Psychological Association agree – forced parent-child separation and parental loss, it says, are potentially traumatic events with adverse effects on children’s mental health.
Lisa Peterson, a school psychologist with the Dallas Independent School District, said the most important thing a school can do is offer a safe space for students and their parents, and that families need to know schools are not places that will jeopardize their safety.
Any disruption in a student's home life can have a cascading effect on a his or her school performance and even their behavior. Fear of the unknown when a parent is detained due to illegal immigration charges can leave students fearful and depressed. Teachers and educators across the country are saying that the stricter immigration policies are causing fear in the classroom and causing good students to miss classes, let grades slip and show behavior problems.
According a report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, educators are reporting that students’ worst fear is being left alone or left to care for their younger siblings and not knowing how they would survive. Some students report suffering deprivation because one or both parents were been deported or lost their jobs due to their immigration status and that there was not enough money for food or basic needs.
The fallout of the immigration policy leaves districts with another area of need to monitor among students. Some districts are pushing back. For example, in Oakland, California, Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell recently outlined protocols designed to protect students from immigration enforcement at school.