Equity & Diversity

Justice Dept to Ala.: Immigration Law Drove Latinos From Schools

By Lesli A. Maxwell — May 04, 2012 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A new and stern letter from the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice to the Alabama state schools chief has affirmed what many educators in the state already know—the state law cracking down on undocumented immigrants drove unprecedented numbers of Hispanic children out of public schools. (Hat tip to Fox 10 TV, which posted a copy of the letter.)

Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general who oversees the civil rights division of the Justice Department, writes that the rate of absences of Hispanic children was triple that of other groups of students in the immediate period after the law, commonly referred to as H.B. 56, took effect last fall. He specifically points out high absence rates for English-language learners, who, by being out of school, “failed to receive the educational services to which they are legally entitled.” And, Mr. Perez notes, the withdrawal rate for Hispanic students was 13.4 percent between the beginning of the school year and February of this year.

Justice Department folks also have been conducting interviews with Latino students in Alabama, some of whom reported being “singled out to receive notices or attend assemblies about H.B. 56, based on their actual or perceived national origin or immigration status,” according to the letter. It also states that many Hispanic students—most of whom are U.S.-born—reported feeling “unwelcome” in schools that they had attended for years.

The letter seems to make very clear that the Justice Department intends to keep a very close watch on how Alabama’s H.B. 56 directly impacts schools, even though the school-related provisions of the law are on currently on hold while the Obama Administration challenges the entire statute in court. Remember that Mr. Perez last fall demanded that nearly 40 school districts with sizable Hispanic enrollments provide data on withdrawals and absences to his office, which sparked a bit of feud between him and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Reported Essay What the Indian Caste System Taught Me About Racism in American Schools
Born and raised in India, reporter Eesha Pendharkar isn’t convinced that America’s anti-racist efforts are enough to make students of color feel like they belong.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Reported Essay Our Student Homeless Numbers Are Staggering. Schools Can Be a Bridge to a Solution
The pandemic has only made the student homelessness situation more volatile. Schools don’t have to go it alone.
5 min read
Conceptual illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity How Have the Debates Over Critical Race Theory Affected You? Share Your Story
We want to hear how new constraints on teaching about racism have affected your schools.
1 min read
Mary Hassdyk for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion When Educational Equity Descends Into Educational Nihilism
Schools need to buckle down to engage and educate kids—not lower (or eliminate) expectations in the name of “equity.”
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty