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ACLU aims to help Latino students in Idaho with launch of new project

ACLU’s project collection heard instances of racism, discrimination, discipline, and policing in Idaho schools. A local parent hopes this project sparks change.

BOISE, Idaho — As the Latino community continues to grow in the Gem State, Idaho’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is making sure Latino students have a safe space to learn.

ACLU Legal Fellow, Erica Rodarte said, "Folks are interested in talking about education and it's such an important issue to them and with Latinos communities being a growing and an essential part of the state it's important to focus on young students' experiences.”

The ACLU launched a new story collection project to gather stories from Latinos learning in Idaho schools.

“We learned about issues, generally, from those conversations and the conversations we kept on having. We tried to focus more on racism, policing, and discrimination because it's what we're hearing most about,” said Rodarte.

Some of the questions parents, students, and educators will be asked include questions like:

  • What are issues important to you?
  • Have you faced any racism or discrimination?
  • Any discipline of any kind?

In the second part of the project, the ACLU is hosting community listening sessions.

"Sharing things from anti-discrimination protections, what students can if they ever have interactions with police or law enforcement and even students with disabilities or English learners have,” said Rodarte.

Their goal is to help address these issues and build a sense of community; a community Nampa parent, Chandra Reyna, said she wished she had when she faced discrimination.

"I was starting to see my own children, but also hear from my family and community members that our students were being policed, that they were being harassed, being questioned a lot, just having a lot of surveillance on them. I feel like it was starting to affect their experience in schools and make them feel distant from their school environment,” said Reyna.

Reyna said her daughter chose to leave in-person school because of her experience and instead opted for online learning.

"This is what is happening and this is why we are choosing to remove her from your school. What I would have expected as a parent is to hear 'I'm so sorry for that. What can we do to make her situation better? We don't want her to not have an out-of-school experience.' I didn't get that, I got 'okay that's good, we'll fill out your paperwork. That isn't the response we should be getting,” said Reyna.

This issue Reyna said is common in the state of Idaho.

"I honestly think that we have a lack of diversity in not only our teachers, which our students have brought as a concern to the district, but also particularly in our administration,” said Reyna.

Reyna said she participated in this project and hopes schools and the community understand these challenges.

"This could be an educational tool for folks to say 'look at the data', so how can you take that information and build it into your everyday actions to make sure that your students do feel welcome,” Reyna said.

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