The Education Equity for Latinx Students project started in the fall of 2022 as part of our efforts to expand racial justice work on behalf of Idaho students, beginning with Latinx communities. Through an ongoing series of community listening sessions and interviews, we continue to learn about the unique and shared experiences of Latinx students in Idaho classrooms. Our leading question going into this work is “What obstacles are you facing as a Latinx student or parent, or as an educator serving Latinx students? Our hope is to learn about many more Latinx students’ experiences, document these stories through our Education Story Collection efforts, and report on our findings.
Education Equity for Latinx Students in Idaho
Latinx students are a vital and growing part of Idaho. But many Latinx students continue to face racism, discrimination, and over-policing in the classroom every day. If you are a Latinx student or parent, or an educator working with Latinx students we would love to hear your story. Your voice matters! The interviews will allow ACLU staff to learn about the issues Hispanic/Latino/x students face, including issues of racism, discrimination, discipline, and policing in school. Your feedback will help inform future ACLU advocacy, programming, and communications efforts. Specifically, your responses will support a broader study on schools in Idaho that we hope to include in a published report and potentially as a story project on social media or on the ACLU of Idaho website. All content will be shared with consent and participants can chose to share anonymously.
If you are a Latinx student or parent, or educator working with Latinx students, we’d love to hear from you. Please click on the link below to sign up if you are interested in talking with us and confidentially sharing your experiences. You can also Contact Erica Rodarte at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up or for more details.
Why Latinx students?
Latinx students are a growing and vital part of Idaho’s schools. Yet, their day-to-day experiences in the classroom vary greatly compared to their non-Latinx peers. This is because Latinx students, like all students attending public school in Idaho, attend classrooms that are increasingly under attack based on censorship and underfunding. In the past three years alone, students have been subject to censorship through book bans, removing books based that contain references to race, gender, and sexuality. The Idaho legislature has also sought to censor conversations about race through HB 377, a statewide anti-Critical Race Theory law passed in 2021. Idaho was also the first state to impose an outright ban on the participation of transgender student athletes. And classrooms remain largely underfunded, with Idaho ranking last in the nation in per-student spending.
What’s more, schools across Idaho are significantly more hostile and unwelcoming for Latinx students. In school districts across the state, Latinx students are disproportionately receiving more suspensions and expulsions compared to their white peers. Latinx students also continue to face discrimination and racism in school, intergenerational experiences that their parents before them know about all too well. Additionally, Latinx students attend schools that are increasingly policed and surveilled.
Although our final report will focus on a specific region of the state, it is important for us to acknowledge that many of the lived experiences we are learning about are not unique to one county or school district in Idaho and not unique to Latinx students. The instances of discrimination, disproportionate discipline, and policing that we are learning about echo the experiences of other students who are targeted based on their race, national origin, or skin color. This includes the experiences of Black and Tribal students. We hope the many conversations, research, and subsequent report resulting from this campaign are just the beginning of expanding our work around racial justice and education equity for students of color in Idaho.
As our work defending, preserving and advancing the rights of Idahoans continues to evolve so does the many intersections of that work. The last several years have seen new attacks on public education. Misinformation and fear mongering have sought to silence discussions of race and gender. School board meetings and other public forums have become battle grounds for contentious discussions on how schools operate, how best to support students and their families, classroom curriculum and school funding, among other issues.
While the ACLU of Idaho has not been deeply involved in issues surrounding public education in the past, we hope our current work in the area will allow us to better support education equity in Idaho. As described by ACLU National Education Equity Coordinator Harold Jordan, education equity is achieved “when all children get the resources and support they need and deserve to reach their full academic and social potential. And that they will get the attention and resources they need and deserve regardless of their background, language, race or ethnicity, economic profile, gender, disability, or immigration status.”
Like other issue areas, we understand that to address education inequity in Idaho we must understand and address the historical and systemic hurdles at play-- hurdles that continue to negatively impact academic outcomes for students of color. Like other issue areas, we understand that to support education equity in Idaho, we must center the stories of our most impacted communities, collecting stories and providing resources for those communities to better advocate for their rights. Lastly, we understand that moving towards education equity means we continue to leverage the strength of our statewide partners and ACLU network to defend against attacks on education in the legislature, courts and Idaho communities.
Know Your Rights
Click the link to download the PDF of your rights when interacting with the public school system when it comes to racism, discipline, and policing.
Student Right Booklet: Racism, Discipline, & Policing
Chandra has three daughters. Her youngest is in fourth grade, and her oldest daughters are in tenth and eleventh grade. Most of their lives, Chandra and her family have lived in Idaho and have attended schools in the Nampa School District. As Chandra shared, her daughters have always excelled in their academics and extracurriculars, including basketball, track, and softball.
Chandra herself attended Nampa High School, but she did not receive the support and mentorship she needed to stay in school, so she dropped out. Based on her experiences, she has always been a very aware and involved parent. This includes constantly advocating for her daughters, who have been surveilled and treated differently when it comes to discipline. As Chandra reflects on her own and her daughters’ experiences today, it’s like “having déjà vu.” After repeated experiences of different treatment in Nampa High School, Chandra’s middle daughter opted to enroll in online school.
Chandra is also an Instructor in the Department of Sociology at Boise State University, a Doctoral Student at the University of Maryland, and has published research on mothering multiracial children.
*The following interview has been edited for clarity.
Has your youngest daughter been treated differently when it comes to discipline in Nampa schools?
Chandra shared with us a disciplinary experience her youngest daughter had this past year as a fourth grader. As Chandra explained, another little girl was name calling her daughter because her daughter would not lend her a stress ball, which she uses for her autism.
It’s a little alarming to me because my [youngest] daughter is only in fourth grade, and she’s autistic, she’s on the spectrum. So, this school year in the fall, I got calls a couple of times from the school about behavior issues. Because of her disability we have to kind of deal with some of her behavior issues in a different way. But she was starting to come into physical contact with other kids. As a parent . . . I took that very seriously. I don’t want my kid hitting other kids at school.
[My youngest daughter said] this little girl was saying really mean things to [her] in the library. She’s like, I can’t say it, it was a bad word . . . I don’t want to tell you I’ll get in trouble if I say the word. I told the principal [the full story]. The principal just told me: no, [the other little girl] didn’t say that.
So already, I'm thinking there is a pattern that I am seeing with my older daughters when they are telling their side of the story. [Administrators are] like, no, she didn’t say that bad word to you. You hit her. And so already, she’s only in fourth grade, and we’re already having this experience of not giving students the benefit of the doubt. And look, I [told my daughter] you cannot hit people, but [even my daughter] knows something about that situation was not right. The way that it was handled, I already think, is leading into the way that my older daughters are experiencing, interacting with administrators.
How have your older daughters experienced different treatment in discipline in Nampa schools?
In December , [my middle daughter] was late to school. I knew that she was late to school because I dropped her off. And you know anybody who is running around trying to get three kids to school before work--if you're already late, it's a hectic morning. So, I drop[ped] her off at school. She’s late. She's walking to class. She runs into a security guard because Nampa has like three or four, and they say, hey, where are you going? [My daughter] has a history of being harassed and just bugged by administrators and security. So, she responded in an “unkind way.” It is the way that the Dean referred to it, that [my daughter] responded in an unkind way to the Security Officer, and was like, I’m going to class, leave me alone. I’m not skipping. I'm going where I’m supposed to go.
So, she was given lunch detention. She had never had lunch detention before, so she apparently went to the wrong room, [and] the Dean didn’t see her at detention. And now said, okay, you’re going to be suspended because you didn’t show up to detention. I’m getting like three voicemails. I’m at work, I teach, so I can’t pick up my phone and so I call the school.
I sit down and I have to mentally prepare [myself] again to do this song and dance of advocating for my kid, which of course, I don’t mind doing. But unequal treatment like this is just not okay. I'm taking time away from work. She did go to detention. She did check in with an office aid and before [the Dean] checked with anybody, before he even talked to my daughter and [asked], “Did you go to detention? Who did you talk to?” He skipped straight to suspension.
But over time I am like no. If they say something, give them the benefit of the doubt. And he was like, oh, you're right, but I'm still going to give her detention, so I had to fight for her to not be suspended. The number of times that I've had to do something like this. She hasn't been suspended because I'm always stepping in.
Chandra also shared another instance where her daughter was surveilled through cameras at school after another mom called in about a verbal confrontation between various students. As Chandra shared, although her daughter was with a group of friends, but not part of the incident, she was the only one removed from class. This, along with other experiences of surveillance and different treatment caused her middle daughter to feel pushed out and she transferred to online school over the winter break.
What was the school’s response when you let them know your daughter would be transferring to online school?
I told the [administrators] I'm removing my daughter from this school, and I want you to know why. I told him what happened, and [it was] very naive of me to think that he would have cared. He was just like, “Okay. Sure, you can remove her from school, and you can take her to Nova thanks for letting us know,” was [their] response.
I told them you are pushing kids out. You’re treating them very disrespectful and not well. They aren't having a good educational experience. You want them to either go to a different school, to drop out, and to become Nampa [Police Department’s] problem. And essentially that's what happened from his perspective, she's removed from the school. [They] no longer have to “deal with her.”
That's what they're doing to all these kids. They're trying the best they can with what they have, and the school is finding technicalities and roadblocks to be like. You can’t be here, and if you leave, we don't care. We would actually prefer that, you know.
Why do you think your daughters have been treated differently at school?
I'm a sociologist, and sometimes I can be a little pessimistic, but in my heart, like I truly believe that a lot of our administrators and just people in this State, and you know, in the United States at large really do have such an internal bias. My daughters have very traditional, long Mexican names. You’d look at [my youngest daughter’s] name, and she has this very long name, and has a documented disability. And sometimes I wonder . . . I didn’t notice it happening with my older daughters until they were older in school.
Sometimes I feel like you just see them, you know, like little kids of color, and just assume they’re naughty. You know that they’re not following the rules, or they’re extra rambunctious and that’s just the way the interactions are happening. Nobody [is] saying those words in particular but that’s the way they’re being interacted with.
I would say, for my oldest daughter, the one that’s in eleventh grade, and does more sports, she really hasn’t had a lot of negative experiences at all. But she’s very quiet. She kind of flies under the radar. If she doesn’t like something, she just keeps it to herself, she’s very quiet.
But my middle daughter, who is in tenth grade, is the one who is now doing online school through Nova. So, it’s still the Nampa School District, but it’s online. I feel like she’s had problems in school—it’s been like a consistent thing. And that draws attention to you when you’re, you know, not afraid to say no, that’s not what I said, and I’m not doing that, and that’s not fair. So, I think that that kind of draws a little bit more attention to her.
What do you think needs to change to address Latinx students being targeted and pushed out in schools?
[Schools] need to do an actual needs assessment from the perspective of their students like, how are the students actually feeling? What is it that they particularly want? I think one of the students group did this last year [and] one of the main things that students were saying [is] that they are not represented in their curriculum; that when their teachers teach certain curriculum that certain things are not taught and that they are represented, or that their teachers teach it really poorly and push really racist or bias tropes without even realizing it. [This] is making students feel othered.
Or, you know, in the classroom, I'm sure that students will probably also tell them that they're not having good experiences with security, etc. And you know, I don't think that training really is a viable option.
It's good spirited and maybe it can do something, but there needs to be a change in administration, if we have administrators blatantly telling us the way that they are racially profiling our children, they cannot be trusted with their social, emotional, and academic safety. I don’t know how to deal with that, but we can't just give them a [Diversity Equity and Inclusion], and they're going to suddenly be able to humanize our students.
I have been there, and I have gone through all of the hoops, and nothing is changing. So, removing my child from the school is the best solution, which is not a good solution . . . not an equitable solution. Not all kids have a parent who can be home or has good Internet or has a parent who has the time to deal with the school at the level that I have over the last year, and be able to realize and be confident enough to advocate for their kid in that way, and not that they don't want to, [it’s] the amount of emotional labor and privilege that that entails.