The National Educators Association held its annual Representative Assembly this past week in Houston, Texas. The location meant that educators from across the country found themselves near a troubling reality in America – the child detention centers. As the country debates the semantics of whether these are actually concentration camps (they are), educators joined together to march for “Education, Not Separation” on Independence Day.
In years marred by educators being told to stick to educating and stay out of politics by naysayers, teachers have chosen to continue to use their voices to fight for children and their futures. When the safety and well-being of children is at stake, education professionals will always band together to fight and march for what is right.
The concentration camps at the border will no doubt affect education for decades to come. Children who have been traumatized have a harder time learning than their peers. The type of trauma being described within these facilities will no doubt have a lasting effect on these children. These children need to be integrated into the American school system. When they do, they will need to have special instruction.
Many of us have had students who have spent time in detention centers. After making the arduous trip, the language barrier is not the only obstacle students face. A large number of students fit the label SIFE – Students with Interrupted Formal Education. Due to violence or war, formal education can be interrupted for months or years, causing different learning problems for students immigrating in other ways.
We don’t know the ramifications of combining this type of trauma with SIFE. Students in Kentucky are guaranteed a free, public education through the age of 20. It is likely that these children would need longer, more sustained supports. What we do know is that the conditions they are being kept in is not helping. The act of separating them from their caregivers and then leaving them in devastating conditions is abhorrent. Removing the educational aspect of this dire situation, we as educators and advocates for children know this isn’t right. The camps must be closed and the children need to be reunited with their rightful caregivers. The world is watching us, and so is history.