On Monday, June 25, 2018, Superintendent Tommy Chang issued the following letter to the Boston Public Schools community to affirm the district’s policies protecting immigrant students:
June 25, 2018
Dear Boston Public Schools Community:
On this, my last days as Superintendent of Schools, I want you to know what I know regarding a lawsuit that touches on how we work with immigrant students and their families. I’m taking the unusual step of speaking on a lawsuit we have not officially received yet because I want you to know how strongly we, as an organization, and I personally, as an educator and an immigrant, feel about protecting immigrant children.
The allegation that has been made in news reports is that the Boston Public Schools (BPS) shared information with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that led to the arrest of a student. That claim is false. BPS would never give student information to ICE, unless required under law. 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. And it contradicts what I have set forth as our direction.
The City of Boston and the Boston Public Schools (BPS) want all of our immigrant families to know that, no matter their immigration status, they are valued members of our community. The U.S. Constitution protects the right of every child in this country to an education — regardless of their immigration status. We take that protection enormously seriously. BPS 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 BPS policy to provide any student records to ICE, and BPS does not have a practice of doing so.
This issue is enormously personal to me. 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 — a journey millions of Americans have taken. 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. I have long spoken out on the need to protect immigrant students, and will continue to do so.
That’s even more important today. The atmosphere has changed dramatically in our country and in immigrant neighborhoods. Fear of deportation has grown sharply. Families worry that enforcement is no longer focused just on serious criminals. There is now constant anxiety for immigrant parents and children, and stress for teachers, principals, and other school staff who care so deeply about our immigrant families.
That is why the Boston Public Schools, as a matter of policy, does not request immigration status from families nor does the district keep any records detailing the immigration status of our students. Furthermore, unless ordered to do so by statute or a court of law, BPS does not provide law enforcement authorities with copies of any students records, which are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Even if a law enforcement agency was to show up at a school with a warrant, only the BPS Office of Legal Advisor will determine whether BPS is required to respond or comply. You can read our policies in our Educational Access For All circular.
In addition, BPS in March instituted a new district policy that provides strict guidelines on how Boston School Police officers provide school police reports to law enforcement authorities, including the Boston Regional Intelligence Center. BPS will continue to work with advocacy organizations around this issue.
The lawsuit, according to reports, focuses on a specific case where BPS complied with requests from a team of investigators from the Boston Police Department (BPD) and Massachusetts State Police, among other law enforcement agencies, that were investigating gang-related murders in East Boston over two years ago, and provided relevant school police reports, which did not contain any student immigration information. The information provided did not contain any reference to an individual’s immigration status.
The Boston Public Schools has been very proactive over the past year and a half to affirm the rights of our immigrant students and provide them and their families important educational resources. We care deeply for our immigrant families and we want them to know that BPS welcomes them and will keep them safe.
Tommy Chang, Ed.D.