SPLC Demands Alabama School District End Discriminatory Practices
By Sarah Ford on April 8, 2014
It’s a moment that often makes J.T. uncomfortable: The moment someone asks him why he isn’t in school.
“It makes me feel like I dropped out,” J.T. said. “It’s like I have nothing to accomplish. I just feel worthless.”
But the 17-year-old Latino didn’t drop out of school. In fact, earlier this year, he twice attempted to enroll in Fort Payne High School in northeast Alabama but was denied entry. He has missed almost an entire semester of school as a result. His plans to join the military this summer have been thrown off course as well.
“I can’t believe I’m just wasting time,” he said.
The SPLC demanded today that the superintendent of Fort Payne schools end the discriminatory enrollment practices keeping J.T. out of school.
In a letter to Superintendent Jim Cunningham, the SPLC described how the student was denied enrollment in violation of federal laws that bar discrimination based on national origin, immigration status or limited English proficiency. The SPLC has demanded that the district enroll J.T. by April 14.
“Fort Payne school officials have stood in the way of our client getting an education simply because he was born in Mexico,” said Caren Short, SPLC staff attorney. “These discriminatory practices have already cost our client valuable class time. It must stop.”
J.T. attempted to enroll on Jan. 31 after moving to Alabama. The teen, who came to the United States from Mexico when he was a year old, brought a completed enrollment application, proof of residency in the school district, an immunization record and a Social Security card, according to the letter.