Frontera Fund News

Immigrant Teens Fight in Court for the Right to Free and Relevant Education

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Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

Immigrant teens are fighting in court as plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against some Florida schools for segregating and sidelining them from attending high school. Yesterday, two more teens were added to the original complaint filed in May 2016.

The lawsuit, spearheaded by The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), accuses the Collier County school district of preventing immigrant minors from enrolling in high schools and directing them to an adult program that costs money and offers no credits toward a high school diploma.

The school district is diluting immigrant children’s educational offerings and is not acting in their best interest.

Federal laws mandate that children are entitled to a free public education, regardless of their immigration status. Florida laws also mandate efforts to provide quality education to all.

Among the 350 immigrant teens barred from Collier County public schools that are represented in the lawsuit are unaccompanied minors and others with limited English skills.

The SPLC, a civil rights advocacy nonprofit filing the lawsuit, is seeking class-action status for the case. A class action lawsuit is one in “which a group of people with the same or similar damages caused by the same product or action sue the defendant as a group.”

According to SPLC’s website, “when families attempted to enroll their children at Immokalee High School, administrators said they were only eligible to attend Immokalee Technical Center (ITech) for an adult English language class with no instruction in other basic subjects. They were completely segregated from their English-speaking peers.”