Trump Administration

Here's Why I've Joined Teachers Calling for an End to Detaining Children at Our Border

From the deepest core of my being, I am a teacher against child detention. To choose to separate children from their families for political reasons is immoral. To willfully choose to injure a child is evil. Because so many of my students have been in foster care, I have had to change my classroom practices. Here’s one: Mother’s Day has become “Let’s Make A Card for the Favorite Grownup In Our Lives Day.” I never, ever say, “I’ll call your father,” unless I know that father is going to be home and not in jail, or missing, or dead. Kids don’t go easily into the foster care system, and the foster care system does not leave them easily, either. For most kids, it is an emotional, painful and  terrifying experience. Because so many of my students have experienced it, I have educated myself about the damage being removed from your family can do. I’ll boil it down to a very easily digestible sentence: Being removed from family does extreme damage to the psyche of a child. Last June, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) opened its archives so anyone can read all the articles it has ever published on the effects of toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences. The editors of the AAP journal Pediatrics did so in the hope that politicians and the public would make the connection that abruptly separating young children from their parents in crowded detention centers is a form of harm that will “potentially affect them for the rest of their lives.” Exposure to toxic stress can lead to an array of health problems for children:
  • Regression in language skills and toilet training
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Challenges in making and maintaining long-term relationships
  • Difficulty concentrating, which makes it hard to learn in school

We Have Laws to Protect Kids from Toxic Stress. Our President Is Ignoring Them.

Back in 1997, the Flores consent decree created standards for the treatment of immigrant children held in federal custody after arriving in the United States. The agreement specifies that minors must be housed in facilities that meet standards comparable to those for licensed facilities for children in foster care, must maintain contact with families and must operate with a policy favoring release of the child to a parent, legal guardian, adult relative or licensed care facility. The care these children are supposed to receive under Flores includes an educational assessment and access to services. But from last summer through January of this year, thousands of children were detained in a tent city in Tornillo, Texas, where instead of attending school, children were handed workbooks and left to complete them on their own, or not. Because the facilities the federal government is currently using to house unaccompanied minor children don’t meet the standards of Flores, children must be released from the facility within 20 days. That is not happening. The Trump administration has ignored the laws of the land to willfully punish people who come to our country for amnesty. He has made us the generation who ripped children from their mothers’ arms and caged them. This has been done in my name. This is being done in your name.

If You Believe in Freedom, Join Us Sunday to Teach-In Against Child Detention

Mandy Manning, the U.S. National Teacher of the Year, has stepped into the fight to protect these children. She formed Teachers Against Child Detention (TACD) to bring light to this incredible darkness that poisons our country, the land of the free. I've had the honor of hearing her speak and her words have burned deep into my heart. There are children who are not being taught. There are children in cages. She has called for teachers to not remain silent. She invites us all to join TACD’s Teach-In in El Paso this Sunday, February 17. I hope to be there by her side. I am a teacher against child detention. I live in the land of the free. If that means something to you, then join me.
Brett Bigham
Brett Bigham is the 2014 Oregon State Teacher of the Year and a member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. He is the only Oregon special education teacher to be named Teacher of the Year and to win the NEA National Award for Teaching Excellence. He is the creator of Ability Guidebooks, a series of support books for people with autism that give step-by-step directions how to ...

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