Superintendent calls on CMS to rally for students ‘traumatized’ by recent ICE raids

CMS Superintendent says families affected by ICE raids need support

Superintendent Clayton Wilcox urges employees across Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools to support immigrant families during a difficult time.
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Superintendent Clayton Wilcox urges employees across Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools to support immigrant families during a difficult time.

Students are “stressed, anguished and sleep-deprived” by a recent wave of raids targeting undocumented immigrants in Charlotte, Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said in an emotional four-minute speech Tuesday night.

Wilcox told the school board that his staff will provide resources to principals, students and families for dealing with the anxiety and disruption that comes when Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, swoops in to detain and deport members of the city’s large immigrant community.

And he called on the district’s 19,000-plus employees to rally to the aid of students and families.

“I think in moments like this we’ll be known by our humanity, by how we reach out and support others that are really suffering a trauma that I don’t think many people understand,” Wilcox said. “But all you have to do is look into the eyes of some of our kids and you will see that this is a terrifying time for many of them.”

Last week, ICE agents detained 200 people in North Carolina, a move officials said was prompted by the decision of sheriffs in Mecklenburg and Wake counties to stop notifying federal officials of the immigration status of county inmates, the Observer reported.

CMS has more than 40,000 students, or roughly 30 percent of total enrollment, who come from homes where English is not the main language spoken. That’s by far the largest population of students from immigrant families in North Carolina.

There’s no way of knowing how many students have family members who are undocumented.

Wilcox emphasized Tuesday that schools don’t ask for such information, don’t share private student information and serve all students regardless of family status. But he said after talking with immigration advocates and service providers Tuesday afternoon, he knew that students and their families are traumatized.

“Their stories that they shared are written on too many stressed, anguished and sleep-deprived worried students,” Wilcox said.

“I heard stories today of young people who are falling asleep in class because in their neighborhood, when blue lights come from law enforcement officers who may be there for a completely different purpose, they’re traumatized wondering which of their neighbors are going to be ripped out of their sleep,” he said.

Wilcox said CMS will send resources to principals, students and families on coping with the raids and their ripple effects. He didn’t provide specifics, and a district spokeswoman said CMS will release more on that Wednesday.

Wilcox did provide one example: “I’m hearing of families who, because their parents are not able to go to work, because they’re afraid of what might happen to them, are not able to buy food and put it on the table for the kids. And so perhaps when you see a child that is hungry, act on behalf of that hungry child.”

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education for the Observer since 2002, long enough to watch a generation of kids go from preK to college. She is a repeat winner of the North Carolina Press Association’s education reporting award.