Documents reveal ‘extensive interactions’ between Boston Public Schools and ICE over student records

Just when you think Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) couldn’t stoop lower—hold your breath, they’ve done it again. Advocates are calling on Boston Public Schools (BPS) officials to stop sharing reports containing students’ personal information and records with ICE. Over 135 student incident reports have supposedly been shared with ICE by BPS officials since 2014, according to a press release published on Monday.

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) sued the city of Boston and BPS, alongside education advocacy groups in June 2018, for denying access to records that showed how much information the city’s schools shared with ICE, WBUR reported.

Janelle Dempsey, an attorney with LCR, expressed in the press release that the documents secured in the lawsuit show more “extensive interactions” between the schools and federal agency than city officials had admitted. According to LCR, the relationship between the two first gained attention three years ago when an East Boston High School student was deported to El Salvador, following a school incident report ICE gained access to in which the student in question was labeled as an associate of the gang MS-13. According to WBUR, he had no criminal history.

Advocates then filed a public records request with BPS to identify how much of students’ information is shared with government agencies. LCR filed a lawsuit after their records requests were denied. Former BPS superintendent Tommy Chang announced his resignation shortly after the lawsuit was filed and LCR claims the new documents show greater cooperation between BPS and ICE than Chang had previously admitted.

“Since 2014, at least 135 student incident reports generated by BPS have been made accessible to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) via the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), an information-sharing network of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and housed within the Boston Police Department,” the press release read. “Advocacy organizations that released the information today called upon BPS to shut down this school-to-deportation pipeline immediately and to cease all collusion with ICE.”00:0000:38

Although the safety of immigrant students in Boston is being questioned, a spokesperson for BPS told Newsweek the school district supports its immigrant students and families. In the statement, the spokesperson said the district updated its safety report policies with stricter guidelines on sharing reports with law enforcement agencies. The spokesperson also told Newsweek that while the school district “does not share information with ICE,” it does share school incident reports with local law enforcement.

How can they share student records with law enforcement? Wouldn’t that be a violation of privacy? According to Newsweek, the school district argues that incident reports are not considered student records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. 

Advocates are demanding the city and school district work harder to uphold its image as a safe space for all students. “The City needs to be transparent about its practices,” executive director of Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy, Inc. Roger Rice said in the press release. “Boston claims to be a sanctuary city, yet City officials continue to place students at risk of deportation through entanglement with ICE,” he added. Rice, LCR, and others have vowed to continue pursuing this case in the courts, saying there is no reason for BPS to keep this information, which doesn’t identify individual students by name, a secret from the public.

What do you think? Should our public schools be sharing information with ICE?

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