About 50 million students attend U.S. public elementary and secondary schools. And according to data, 7 percent have at least one undocumented parent. That’s 3.5 million children. What I found this week in writing about immigration raids and deportation scares is that the emotional and educational impact is staggering. Current immigration policy is shattering families and leaving U.S.-born children parentless, as they watch one or both parents deported. Immigration policy is education policy.

A CNN feature in 2013 profiled teen siblings in Florida orphaned after their father was deported while they were at school. It was the second time the children, who are both legal residents, lost a parent to deportation—their mother was returned to Nicaragua in 2008. “Constantly worrying that their parents will be snatched away, children often feel angry, helpless, and trapped,” CNN’s Cindy Y. Rodriguez and Adriana Hauser wrote. A study by the advocacy organization Human Impact Partners published the same year, “Family Unity, Family Health,” found that the deportation scares take a mental and physical toll on undocumented immigrants’ children. Researchers linked the threat of detention and deportation to poorer educational outcomes, concluding: “U.S.-citizen children who live in families under threat of detention or deportation will finish fewer years of school and face challenges focusing on their studies.”

This research provides important insight given the current round of federal raids triggering deep-seated fears in the Hispanic community. As immigration agents target adults with school-age children in several states, even those exempt from the sanctions are anxious and scared.

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(Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock)



Educating students for a more just and equitable world sounds idyllic. In reality, however, teaching students to think critically about racial, economic, and social injustices can lead to a host of difficult and controversial problems.

With the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday – and Black History Month fast approaching – it seemed like an ideal time to look specifically at how schools teach the life of Dr. King, in addition to how schools approach social-justice education overall in a way that’s authentic and represents all the complexities.

The Chicago teacher Gregory Michie says his lessons on the social-justice icon are designed to upend what he views as a simplistic and clichéd image often presented in schools. Since many of his students know King’s famous excerpt hoping for a day when no one is judged by the color of their skin, Michie’s social-studies class zeroes in on lesser-known sections of the “I Have a Dream” speech, like the “fierce urgency of now” and “tranquilizing drug of [white] gradualism.” The youngsters quickly realize that they’ve never really heard the full message of the speech, he said, and “it’s a lot more nuanced, and more fiery, than they’d thought.”

As the country observes the federal holiday named in King’s honor, it seems that schools are increasingly coming under sharp criticism from educators and activists for their approach to teaching King’s life. Some question a sanitized teaching of the black civil-rights movement, its leaders, and other struggles for social justice that denies students an accurate and complete account of history. These debates are complicated by the inherent professional dangers in teaching through a social-justice lens.

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