Clayton Principal Steps Down; Singled Out Latino Students

S.A. Reid, Anna Varela, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nov. 11, 2006

A Clayton County high school principal who told a group of Hispanic students they could face deportation if they caused trouble in school has agreed to step down at least through the end of the semester.

Principal Delphia Young of Forest Park High School had found herself at the center of controversy since she called the school’s Hispanic ninth- and 10th-graders to a meeting in the cafeteria earlier this month.

Students reported that Young accused some of them of being gang members responsible for recent off-campus fights and said she told them she would call police and immigration officials into the school the next time a Latino student caused a problem.

Young will be away from her job as principal at least until Dec. 21, said Charles White, a district spokesman. Assistant principal Sandra Lewis will serve as interim principal beginning Monday.

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Zayra A. Fosse, Georgia director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said a Latino parent contacted the civil rights organization this week to ask for help.

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On Friday, superintendent Pulliam was at Forest Park to announce the move and talk to staff about school climate at the district’s most culturally diverse high school. Forest Park is 60 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic, 9 percent Asian and nearly 8 percent white. Systemwide, Hispanics make up 12.8 percent of the district’s enrollment.

Young held a meeting Thursday evening to explain her actions, drawing more than 400 parents and students.

Invoking immigration officials appears to violate the spirit of a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that guarantees immigrant students, including illegal immigrants, the right to attend k-12 public schools. Under the ruling, known as Plyler vs. Doe, schools are barred from seeking information about a students’ legal status or taking other action that could “chill” an immigrant student’s right to attend school.

Jimmy Garcia Arispe attended the Thursday night meeting on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a national civil rights group. He said Young apologized for her actions.

Parents in the crowd appeared mixed in their reaction to Young’s apology, with some calling for forgiveness and others saying she should be fired.

Arispe, a former middle school principal in DeKalb, said he sympathizes with Young’s desire to keep her school safe. But he said she made a serious error by singling out one ethnic group for her message.

“Principal 101 is you don’t segregate students for any reason,” he said.

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