Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Public School and the Rights of Children and Teachers

Since my last blog I have been researching public education in Texas and have contacted the United States Department of Education and the United States Department of Justice seeking answers to my question.

I am the parent of three children, attending public school, in the state of Texas. Texas is a border state to Mexico, therefore we have numerous illegal immigrants in our state. We also have numerous illegal immigrant children in our public schools. This has lead me to re-evaluate my role as a parent and my role as a US citizen.

I have taught my children to be nice to everyone and every animal. I have taught my children to choose their friends based upon their character and to seek out people that are honest, decent, morally sound, and law abiding.

My daughter had a slumber party a few weeks ago and several of her classmates attended. I was talking to one girl at the party and she proceeded to reveal that her father is in prison, and as the evening progressed she stated that she, as well as her grandmother, are in the United States illegally from Mexico. I am well aware that the border is not enforced and I did not feel that the slumber party was going to be interrupted by an INS raid, but I did feel anxious.

When all of the girls had gone home I asked my daughter if she knew she was here illegally and that her father was in prison. She said that she did know, but she was still her friend and was a nice person.

I on the other hand was very surprised that a child that was in the United States illegally would be so blunt. I would think that if you are trying to live under the radar you would be discreet. This is not the case in our public schools. All of my children know illegal immigrants and attend public school with them on a daily basis.

When I hear the word illegal I think of the words "crime, jail, bad news, stay away, fear", but in our public schools when our children find out that their classmates are illegal, they can not leave class and request to be around only law abiding citizens.

On June 15, 1982 the Supreme Court decided that illegal immigrants can attend public school. It is the case of Pyler V. Doe. The Texas statute which withholds from local school districts any state funds for the education of children who were not "legally admitted" into the United States, and which authorizes local school districts to deny enrollment to such children, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. When this decision was made, several justices dissented and suggested that this decision should be revisited if illegal immigrants had a negative impact on our school children.

This leads me to my question; Do legal children of the United States have the right to attend public school without being subjected to illegal behavior? Do our public school teachers have the right to work in an environment free of criminal behavior?

If a person is in the United States illegally are they breaking the law? I think so, because if they were not breaking the law why would they be called illegal immigrants? When I hear illegal I think of something that is wrong and something that I do not want to participate in.

I would not want to work in an environment where I was around illegal behavior. I do not choose to associate with individuals that break the law and I am trying to teach my children to be law abiding citizens.

I underatand that part of the reasoning used in deciding Pyler v. Doe was based on children not being held responsible for their parents illegal behavior, but at what age is a child held accountable for their own illegal behavior? I think in most cases it is usually around the age of 10 to 12.

The current estimates show there are 1.5 million illegal aliens in Texas. When the costs are broken down it comes to a total of $725 a year per taxpaying household to cover the costs of education, health care and incarceration of illegal aliens throughout the state. Based on estimates of the illegal immigrant population in Texas and documented costs of K-12 schooling, Texans spend more than $4 billion annually on education for illegal immigrant children and for their U.S.-born siblings. About 11.9 percent of the K-12 public school students in Texas are children of illegal aliens. 40% of the illegal immigrants in the United States have entered the US in the last 5 years.

If illegal immigrant children attend public school and talk about their illegal status as if it is not wrong, how are we going to teach a generation of children to respect the law?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Innocence Lost

September 11,2001, shortly after 8:00 AM, I was at work pouring my first cup of coffee and a co-worker said "did you hear that a plane just hit the World Trade Center"? 'The plane must have just taken off or was getting ready to land', we concluded as we drank our coffee, discussing why a plane would be flying low enough to hit a building. Our conversation quickly turned to gasps, as we learned a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, and that both planes were commercial jet liners, not the small single-engine plane we had first imagined.

I attempted to log on to & but had no success, because the servers were too busy. The radio reports started flowing in & we quickly discovered this was not an accident and planes were flying towards Washington, DC.

My first thought was to my husband. He was in the air on 9-11-2001 flying to Houston for a business meeting. I tried to call his cell phone, numerous times, but it was turned off. I called the kids school and all was fine there.

Over the next 2 hours my co-workers and I stood in disbelief. We had a black and white TV propped high in the corner of one of the offices trying to get reception. The volume on our radios was turned up loud and we had surround sound news. I can only describe the mood as somber and numb. My thoughts were "what's next."

A little before 10:00 AM my husband called and said "I have 14 missed calls from you and we landed in Austin instead of Houston." As he exited the plane I filled him in on what was happening. He immediately went and rented a car. Which turned out to be the best thing he could have done. Otherwise he could have been in Austin for days.

I went to my children's school at lunch, and to my dismay learned they had cable and the students had been watching the news all morning. I found this to be very disturbing and when I spoke to the principal he assured me they would not watch the news in the afternoon. I quickly learned it was too late, when my 8 year-old son said, "the building was on fire and we saw these people jump out of the building." Innocence Lost!

I think that sticks with me the most. The innocence that my children lost on 9-11-2001. The innocence that I lost on 9-11-2001. The innocence that America lost on 9-11-2001. I lived 35 years, in utter bliss, believing that nothing bad ever happens on America's soil. That changed forever on 9-11-2001.

When I think of 9-11-2001 and the 3000 people that lost their lives, because of 19 terrorist hijackers and their declaration of Jihad, three people come to mind. They are Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Juliana Valentine McCourt and Todd Morgan Beamer.

As the nation sat in disbelief and fear Rudy Giuliani eased New York City and prevented any additional turmoil that easily could have ensued. He was a rock and comforted the country with his stoic, dedicated perseverance.

The words of Todd Beamer (United Flight 93)"Let's Roll" resonated through the air-waves and brought out the patriotic determination of a broken hearted nation. If he could be strong in a time of utter chaos, fear and imminent death, so could we!

Juliana Valentine McCourt (United Flight 173), whose very name equates love, touched mothers hearts everywhere, because she was the 4 year-old little girl that never made it to Disneyland.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed the flags came down, the yellow ribbons were removed and life started to feel normal again. On the first anniversary of 9-11-2001 my daughter came home from kindergarten wearing an American flag on her shirt. I knew what it was for, but asked anyway. My five year old responded "it is in remembrance of the terrorist attacks." Innocence Lost! She remembered and she knew what she was talking about. She talked knowledgeabley about the World Trade Centers, Osama Bin Laden and used the word terrorists as if it was an innate part of her vocabulary.

Life went on. We started to feel safe again and with little hesitation, we took a weekend trip to Austin. The trip was uneventful, except for one moment that will forever haunt my soul. We went to Target, to pick up sunscreen, and my daughter scurried ahead of us as usual. As I ran to catch her she suddenly stopped. She stood motionless and her little face turned white. I asked her what was wrong and she responded "It's Osama Bin Laden." I looked to see where she was pointing and an Islamic man stood dressed in a white turban and long white tunic. To this little girl she was face to face with a terrorist. She had only seen pictures of the terrorists and in Midland Texas had never witnessed anyone wearing a turban. I quickly assured her he was not Osama Bin Laden and he was not a terrorist. Innocence Lost!

As the 5th anniversary of this terrible day approached it was the the last thing I wanted to read about, write about, or watch on
TV. For me, September 11th would always be the day my children's lives changed forever. Or so I thought until a few days ago and my daughter asked; "Who is Osama Bin Laden?" The same little girl that was wearing a flag and discussing 9-11 like an expert four years ago. She no longer remembers 9-11. She no longer fears men dressed in turbans. She no longer uses the word terrorist. Her little voice and her thoughts are once again innocent.

If only we could all be children again!