DENVER — FOX31 obtained the message a human resources employee from Denver Public Schools sent to various schools across the district that employs teachers on working visas. The message said if those teachers strike, the school district is “required to report that to immigration.”
“This was wrong,” said Superintendent Susana Cordova at a press conference Friday. “I can not begin to express how shocked I was to learn of this message, and how deeply sorry I am for the anxiety and fear that this has caused our educators, our family and our community. This is not who we are as a district.”
Cordova said they have been in contact with attorneys in the weeks leading up to a negotiation deadline with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, specifically asking what the district is required to do under the law. Cordova says they are required to notify the U.S. Department of Labor within three days of a strike, but do not need to report the specific names of teachers with visas.
FOX31 spoke to two immigrant teachers from Denver Public Schools who requested they remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
“Today, I felt more relief,” said one teacher. “I am the same like them. I am a teacher and I work so hard like them, you know? And now, I wanted to tell them I support!” The teacher says she didn’t vote to strike because she didn’t want anything to interfere with her application for citizenship.
There are 130 people employed by Denver Public Schools working on visas.
“All of them are afraid and say, ‘No, I’m not going to do it,'” the teacher said. “They don’t want to do it because they’re afraid that if something happens, they could lose their job.”
Cordova says educators who are on visas have the same legal right to participate in a strike as every other teacher. However, despite that reassurance, teachers who are in the process of trying to become citizens are worried.
“Me and other teachers [decided] not to strike because we are scared,” said another teacher. “It doesn’t change my decision because I feel the threat.”
The district is investigating what went wrong with the message going out, saying the employee didn’t follow district “procedure and protocol.” The superintendent says DPS will take “appropriate steps” when it comes to disciplining the employee responsible.
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