Equity & Diversity

Lawsuit Over a Student’s Deportation Sparks Furor in Boston Schools

By Corey Mitchell — June 25, 2018 3 min read
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Days after a coalition of civil rights and student advocacy groups sued the Boston schools to find out how much information the system shares with federal immigration officials, the outgoing superintendent fired back, challenging what he felt were accusations that the district targets immigrant students.

The groups, led by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, allege in the lawsuit that the school system and Superintendent Tommy Chang hand over student information to immigration authorities.

Chang, who immigrated to the United States from Taiwan at age 6, denounced the lawsuit in a letter to district families Monday. Here’s a link to Chang’s full letter.

The superintendent announced his resignation a day after the lawsuit was made public, leading to widespread speculation that the complaint led to his departure.

The Boston schools “would never give student information to ICE, unless required under law,” Chang wrote in the letter. “It also fundamentally contradicts what we stand for and believe as an organization, and what thousands of our employees work in good faith to do every day.

“I came to this country as an immigrant child, and entered public school without knowing a word of English. Public schools gave me the opportunities that made me what I am today...,” Chang wrote. “Immigrants make this nation strong, and like so many people, I’m horrified by some of the actions our federal government is taking, particularly against immigrant families, actions that I believe are fundamentally contradictory to what this country stands for.”

While Chang’s letter challenged the lawsuit, it did not directly address the speculation that the complaint cost him his job.

The lawsuit claims that an in-school incident report, compiled by the Boston School Police and shared with the Boston Regional Intelligence Center—a collaboration of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents—was used by federal officials in the deportation proceedings of an East Boston High student.

In March, the district established a new policy that sets guidelines on how Boston School Police officers provide reports to law enforcement authorities.

"[Boston Public Schools] must be transparent about what it is sharing with federal immigration officials, particularly with records sent to the BRIC,” Matt Cregor, Education Project Director at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, said in a statement.

While the district has faced questions over its role in that student’s detention, and eventual deportation, staff and system leadership have made efforts to link immigrant families with support and resources. Prior to the incident, dozens of Boston teachers and counselors started “Unafraid Educators,” a group formed to support undocumented students and students whose parents don’t have legal immigration status.

Chang wrote that Boston “will continue to welcome and support immigrant students in our schools, and honor their constitutional right to a free and uninterrupted public school education. We always follow state and federal student records laws in sharing any student information. It would be against [district] policy to provide any student records to ICE, and BPS does not have a practice of doing so.”

Here’s a link to Chang’s full letter.

Here’s a copy of the complaint filed against the district.

See page 16 of the complaint for a redacted copy of the East Boston High School incident report.

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