Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 8
Students in Shelters
Controversy continues to swirl over the status of
children in federal custody in connection with
immigration enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Here's a look at the federal education requirements
for such children.
People who were
taken into custody
related to cases of
illegal entry into the
United States sit in a
detention facility in
U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP
By Andrew Ujifusa &
After weeks of insisting Democrats
were ultimately responsible for the
migrant-child crisis at the U.S.-Mexico
border, President Donald Trump did an
about-face June 10, reversing a policy
that has separated thousands of migrant
children from their families-most of
whom are coming from Central American countries. But thousands of children
remain in federal custody and are entitled to certain education services while
they remain there.
The Trump administration's "zerotolerance" enforcement policy on bordercrossing offenses led to almost 2,000 children being separated from their families
over a six-week period in April and May,
according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Trump's executive order could reunite
children with their parents, but may
seek to keep the families locked up indefinitely. Unaccompanied minors who
arrived at the border without their families will remain detained.
Before Trump signed the executive
order to stop the family separations, his
administration faced increasing pressure
from education organizations, human
rights groups, immigration advocates,
and federal lawmakers from both parties
to halt the practice of separating families.
Groups including the AASA, the School
Superintendents Association, the National Association of School Psychologists,
and the National Education Association
have spoken out against the policy.
Since at least April, children who arrived at the border were taken from their
parents or guardians and placed in the
care of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement with no immediate plans to
reunite them with family. Reports and images of distraught children sleeping and
living in metal cages gripped the nation.
While the children are in federal detention centers, officials must provide shelter,
food, and schooling, but leaders in some
of the nation's largest states and school
districts question whether the education
needs of the children are being met.
Here's a look at the official education
requirements for these children, the
qualifications for those being hired to
provide these children with classroom
instruction, and more.
What education services are children
who've been separated from their parents
and are being held at shelters entitled to?
The Department of Health and Human Services is
ultimately responsible for providing education services
to these children, and the agency works with private
contractors to provide these services. Within 72 hours
of migrant children entering a facility, care providers
must conduct an educational assessment of each child,
according to HHS requirements posted online. They
must then provide education services "based on the
individual academic development, literacy level, and
linguistic ability of each unaccompanied alien child."
HHS policy mandates that children receive a minimum
of six hours of "structured education," in science,
social studies, math, reading, writing, and physical
education, Monday through Friday throughout the entire
year, with no academic breaks longer than two weeks.
That means school-age children who are in the federal
facilities should already be receiving instruction. The
centers must also provide access to pre-GED classes
and college-preparation tutorials for eligible older
Agencies that contract with HHS to provide these
services must create individual plans for students who
"have special needs, disabilities, or medical or mental
Children in these facilities are also entitled to daily
outdoor activity, at least one hour of "structured leisure
time activities" per week, and both individual and
group counseling sessions.
Based on conversations with children who've been in
the shelters, young people are receiving some form of
education, said Jennifer de Haro, the managing attorney
at Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and
Legal Services (RAICES).
But de Haro stressed that those conversations haven't
yielded a full picture of what kind of schooling is
happening in the facilities. "Anything traumatic
interferes with learning," De Haro said. "Whenever
there are a lot of kids who need to be processed, or
some sudden change is made, that can create some
confusion and chaos. It usually creates an environment
where things can slip through the cracks."
What are the requirements for education staff
working in these facilities?
According to a job posting for a "seasonal teacher"
at a Brownsville, Texas, shelter run by Southwest Key,
a contractor for HHS, those interested in the job must
be able to provide the following "essential functions"
* "Create a safe and inclusive classroom
environment of respect and rapport to ensure a
positive learning experience for youth with diverse
8 | EDUCATION WEEK | July 18, 2018 | www.edweek.org
* "Organize and prepare materials for daily
instruction while ensuring the inventory of
classroom materials, [which] may include:
textbooks, furniture, and other equipment needed
to assist in the provision of instruction."
* "Individualize lesson plans to meet each
[student's] academic level."
* "Assist with the coordination of physical
education instruction with shift supervisor, shift
leader, or program director to ensure compliance
with state and federal requirements."
Qualified applicants, according to Southwest Key, are
bilingual in English and Spanish, have a bachelor's
degree in education or a related field, and have one to
two years of paid or unpaid experience working with
youth, preferably in a bilingual setting, among other
A separate job posting for an "early childhood
coordinator" at the Brownsville Southwest Key location
says that person must "supervise all classroom
activities," integrate education activities with health
care and other services provided, and perform the
work with a "strong understanding" of the standards
for early-childhood education provided by the National
Association for the Education of Young Children.
Spanish speakers are preferred.
Are child migrants guaranteed a free public
education under the U.S. Supreme Court's
Plyler v. Doe ruling?
The Plyler ruling in 1982 held that public schools must
provide equal access to education for all students in
their jurisdiction, regardless of immigration status.
However, because the education services in shelters
are ultimately the responsibility of the federal
government and not public schools, Plyler has only
applied in practice to recently arrived unaccompanied
minors if they are placed with a parent, guardian, or
sponsor in local communities with plans to attend
"These children, arguably, fall [under Plyler]," said
Maura McInerney, the legal director at the Education
Law Center in Philadelphia, referring to the children
who've been separated from their parents in these
locations. "But we're treating the children differently."
The children who are released by the Department of
Homeland Security to relatives and guardians would
be covered by Plyler, however. And those children
could put an additional strain on local schools,
because they would be "tasked with mitigating the
trauma these kids have experienced," said Sasha
Pudelski, the advocacy director for AASA, the School
Despite Plyler, migrant children who've been
released from shelters to parents and other legal
guardians are still having difficulty enrolling in
local schools because they're missing proper
paperwork, among other issues, de Haro of
And for those who do enroll, "they're having trouble
focusing in schools," de Haro said.
Is the federal government seeking support
from schools and states to provide education
for the children?
Citing reports that 1,000 children are being held
at a recently re-opened temporary shelter for
unaccompanied children in Miami-Dade County,
schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he has
not received any communications from HHS or the
Office of Refugee Resettlement about the presence of
the children or provisions being made to provide them
schooling. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary
Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday, Carvalho asked for
clarity on which agency the district should work with
to provide the children with "some connection with
caring adults and access to educational services."
The Texas State Teachers Association wrote a letter to
Gov. Greg Abbott and state education commissioner
Mike Morath on Tuesday urging the state to develop
and fund a plan to educate the thousands of children
being held in detention centers near the U.S.-Mexico
The Texas Education Agency did not immediately
respond to Education Week's interview request.
What role, if any, does the U.S. Department
of Education play in the education of these
Elizabeth Hill, a department spokeswoman, did not
respond to requests for comment about any support
or other help the Education Department might be
providing. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has
made no public statements about the situation. DeVos
did make waves recently when she told the House
education committee that local schools could choose
to report undocumented students to Immigration
and Customs Enforcement. In subsequent Senate
testimony, she backed off that stance.
Will the immigrant children have access to
bilingual or Spanish-speaking instructors?
Federal law requires that these children receive
an education that is appropriate for their needs,
including English-as-a-second-language services.
Southwest Key, the private company which operates
17 immigrant children's centers in Texas, and
similar facilities in Arizona and California, is actively
seeking bilingual candidates with experience for