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Local children apparently afraid while at school parents will be deported

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Anxious calls of concern are coming into both the Montgomery School District’s main offices and individual schools as parents work to deal with their fears about whether they or their children might be deported due to their immigration status.

“Parents are concerned,” said Montgomery County Public School District Spokesman Derek Turner. “We’ve heard from up-county, and we’ve heard from down-county,” he said, explaining that the calls aren’t just coming from a few isolated areas.

While no one has been picked up by ICE agents in Montgomery County, according to Maritza Solano, CASA de Maryland’s director of education, students are still scared.

“The levels of anxiety and stress are a little more elevated, post-election,” she said.

Many immigrant families listen to Spanish-speaking radio and television news continually, and the children hear the horror stories, Solano said.

When one child of immigrant parents talked to their daughter about what she should do if her parents were arrested or deported, she immediately began crying, Solano said. One boy “doesn’t want to talk about the United States. He feels his country doesn’t want him here,” she said.

“There are several stories like that,” she added.

A few teachers and volunteers in the schools said some students feel unwanted and others are distracted due to anxiety.

Absenteeism has risen in the past few months when compared to the same time in the previous school year.

During the 2015-2016 school year, 4.73 percent of the students were absent in February. This February, 6.08 percent of the students were absent, according to Turner.

In January of the previous school year, 4.57 of the students were absent. This year, that number was 5.36 percent.

Absenteeism also was higher this current school year during October, November and December as compared to the 2015-2016 school year.

Because the school doesn’t keep records on who of their students are immigrants, or second generation immigrants, the increase cannot be directly attributed to fear of deportation or anxiety from feeling unwanted by classmates when they are at school. It is a “difficult analysis,” Turner said.

The percentages do not take into account “the impact of school closing (MCPS was closed Jan. 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and Feb 16) or the impact/severity of flu season,” Turner said, calling that “an important caveat.”

When a parent calls with concerns and questions about whether their children could be arrested or deported while at school, “We encourage them that having kids out of school is not the solution. We tell parents schools are the safest place to be,” Turner said.

“We want to make sure students are learning. If students aren’t in school, they aren’t learning,” he said.

Turner stressed that no one from the U.S. Immigrations and Enforcement (ICE) has come to the Montgomery County schools, even though rumors exist that some students, or older siblings, have been pulled out of the school by ICE agents.

“That’s one of the things we want to dispel, that there are ICE agents coming into the schools and taking students. That is not true,” Turner said.

CASA has led informational programs at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring and Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park, making sure families understand their rights, Solano said.

@SuzannePollak

 

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