Principal suggests ways to support students who have been separated from parents
- Meghan Dunn, the principal of P.S. 446 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, offers advice in this Chalkbeat article for educators who are dealing with the results of students who are separated from parents after crossing the border.
- Dunn suggests that schools use crisis teams to assess student needs, determine proper educational placement when not all information is available and help students deal with the trauma of the separation so they can focus on learning in the classroom.
- Because of the stress and fear they might be experiencing, students may tend to act out because of the need to gain control in their lives and could face numerous absences due to bureaucratic issues. Finding an adult who can connect with the child and help him or her develop strategies to avoid conflict and overcome obstacles can make the transition easier, she suggests.
As immigration policies continue to fluctuate, some schools may face an influx of students who have been separated from their parents during border crossings. While Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently made it clear that schools are required to educate undocumented students and should not become immigration enforcement zones, they may be left to deal with the fallout of these issues from other departments.
Schools can learn from other situations in which children are separated from parents, such as the result of a custody or law enforcement issue. In the case of immigrant children, however, there may be additional language barriers to overcome as well. Schools affected may need to expand the teams they have of professionals who can work with children in crisis situations or reach out to immigration organizations in the community.
Schools can also provide professional development for educators, such as training in trauma management and de-escalation strategies. These students will also likely need extra support systems in place as do many children in foster care. Ultimately, schools can provide students with a stable environment in the midst of such uncertainty, but educators also need support to make that happen.