Civil Rights Lawyers Charge Boston Public Schools Shared Student Information with ICE

Boston Public Schools gave U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) access to more than 100 incident reports to immigration officials, civil rights lawyers allege.

Since 2014, at least 135 student incident reports generated by Boston Public Schools (BPS) were made accessible to ICE through the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), which is an information-sharing network for local, state and federal law enforcement, according to a statement from the Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR).

The advocacy organizations are calling for BPS to stop sending information to ICE via BRIC and to “shut down this school-to deportation pipeline immediately and to cease all collusion with ICE.”

Quick Facts About the Case

  • The advocacy organizations sent a letter to BPS on December 6, 2017, after learning about an incident report involving a student. A lawsuit, which was filed in regards to the incident reports on June 21, 2018, and viewed by The North Star, stated that an incident report regarding a nonviolent altercation between students at an East Boston school led to one of the students being arrested and subsequently deported by ICE.

  • The suit states: “BPS and the Boston School Police continue to disclose student incident reports to BRIC and, as a result, the student information is being used by ICE to investigate violations of federal immigration laws.”

  • In the statement, LCR states that advocates filed a public records request with BPS to determine the full extent of student information shared with BPS and ICE, but had to sue the City of Boston when it refused to turn over the records, which included redacted information.

  • School and government officials denied that student information was shared with ICE. In a statement to the Boston Herald, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said: “Boston Public Schools does not share information with the federal authorities, our job is to make sure our kids feel safe, are learning in a safe environment and protected. We wouldn’t share information on immigration status, it’s quite honestly no one’s business. I don’t even know if the school department has that information, but we are going to make sure we continue to have a safe environment for our kids to learn in.”

  • BPS superintendent Brenda Cassellius, who stepped in as superintendent last year after the lawsuit was filed, also told the publication that the district does not share student information with ICE. Despite this, Cassellius did not say they did not share student information with BRIC. BPS reportedly shares school police incident reports with local law enforcement that are in connection to criminal investigations, according to the Boston Herald.

Advocates are taking action

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) states that federal law prohibits schools from “utiliz[ing] criteria or methods of administration which have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination because of their race, color, or national origin, or have the effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the program with respect to individuals of a particular race, color, or national origin.”

The organization also states that schools can only disclose student information to ICE officials “with the consent of a parent or student (if that student is 18 years of age or older) or if necessary to comply with a judicial order or a subpoena signed by a judge.”

LCR and other advocates are demanding transparency from BPS about the reports that were sent to BRIC.

“The extent of BPS collusion with federal immigration enforcement is alarming, and much more extensive than the [the city of Boston] has let on,” said LCR attorney Janelle Dempsey. “BPS is creating a dangerous school-to-deportation pipeline that must be stopped immediately.”

Dempsey told TNS that LCR believes investigations has no place in schools and that the city should not be sharing student records with ICE. She called out BPS, saying its explanations are inconsistent.

“Families should feel safe sending their kids to school each day,” Dempsey said. “Boston is a sanctuary city and has adopted sanctuary city policies.”

Advocates also noted in their statement that BPS has withheld additional documents and have “heavily redacted” most of the released reports, including the race and ethnicity of students.

“What we know already raises troubling questions about whether BPS is engaged in racial profiling and disproportionately targeting Latinx student information for ICE,” Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of LCR, said in the statement.

“We will be asking the court to compel disclosure of this information to the public, because there is no legal reason why BPS should be allowed to keep this information secret.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.