In light of the national 'Day Without Immigrants' protests last Thursday, DeKalb County Superintendent Stephen Green issued a letter to parents, urging them to send their children to school. Absentee rates at some schools with large Latino populations jumped to almost 60 percent the day of the protest.
DeKalb officials say absentee rates at those schools have been higher than usual since reports of immigration raids in recent weeks. The district considers a school’s absentee rate to be high if it reaches 10 percent. Officials say some schools’ rates were twice that high last week.
The school system can't say for sure why kids are missing school. However, some immigrant rights activists say children are worried if they leave for school, their parents will be gone when they get home.
On Monday, a student named Evelyn spoke to Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress. Her step father was detained after immigration officials caught him jaywalking. Evelyn says he was in the U.S. legally. After that, she wasn’t in a hurry to go to school.
“It’s very hard to leave my mom alone,” she said. “I’m scared for her.”
John Michael Torres, with immigrant rights organization La Union de Pueblo Entero (LUPE), says families in other parts of the country have had similar reactions.
"They decided that it would be more important for them to protect themselves and their kids, rather than taking the risk of sending their kids to school, and possibly being stopped by police on the way there, and being picked up and deported,” Torres says.
In his letter, Dr. Green assured parents DeKalb’s schools are "safe places for learning and teaching."