Cruelty – There Is No Other Word for It

Liberty Turns Her Back on Immigrants

Lady Liberty turns her back on immigrants. That is the thought that came to mind while gazing out the window of the Great Hall on Ellis Island, the gateway to America for so many immigrants (including my grandparents).

 

Upon hearing and reading reports of children being forcibly removed from parents seeking immigration asylum into the United States, a combination of tears and anger compels me to write this column. The promised piece on the leadership of children over the school-shootings crisis will appear in this space soon.

There is no other word for it: Taking children away from parents seeking asylum from countries plagued with deadly violence, such as Honduras, and taking them somewhere across the nation is inhumane. In fact, there are no words. Though government actions harmful to children are by no means new, civil liberties attorneys are declaring that the current situation is unprecedented, “cruelty with no bounds.” An article in the New Yorker, calls it a form of state terror.  Medical and child-welfare experts point out that the emotional and psychological damage to these very young children is likely to be permanent.

What will happen to these children?

Chief of Staff John Kelly said in an interview on NPR, “The children will be taken care of—put in foster care or whatever.” In response to all the anguish along our southwestern border, Mr. Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the President justify the actions of ICE as a means of deterrence. For parents fleeing their home countries out of fear of life-threatening violence? (And those minors being members of MS-13 and other gangs? Only a minute portion is involved, according to The Marshall Project.) Well, just days later, reliable news sources such as NPR’s Frontline report that some 1,500 children are “missing,” unaccounted for. What will happen to their distraught parents? The nightmare is unfathomable, yet it is actually happening.

Liberty in ChainsThe ACLU, acting on the findings of Lee Gelernt, the group’s Deputy Director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project (as featured in the MSNBC clip), regarding a mother from the Congo who was separated from her young daughter for months, recently filed a national class-action lawsuit,

All of us, not just as caring Americans, but as caring people, must speak up! Finding both elected officials is very easy; all information can be found at one place, at USA.gov. And be sure to include other notable people, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and Kevin K. McAleenan, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It is easy to fall into despair. However, the collective “small” actions each of us – regardless of political affiliation – can do, such as writing letters and discussing this critical issue, both in person and online (such as in blogs or on social media) could well make positive change. Indeed, it is often the only thing that does.

Here is my letter. Please feel free to borrow as much as you like!

Upon hearing and reading reports of children being forcibly removed from parents seeking immigration asylum into the United States, a combination of tears and anger compels me to write. Taking children away from parents and taking them somewhere across the nation is inhumane, beyond words. Civil liberty attorneys are declaring that the current situation is unprecedented. Medical and child-welfare experts point out that the emotional and psychological damage to these very young children is likely to be permanent.

Chief of Staff John Kelly said on NPR, “The children will be taken care of – put in foster care or whatever.” Well, just days later, reliable news sources report that some 1,500 children are “missing,” unaccounted for. Members of the Trump Administration justify the actions of ICE as a means of deterrence. For parents fleeing their home countries out of fear of life-threatening violence? What will happen to these children? What will happen to their distraught parents? The nightmare is unfathomable, yet it is actually happening. This is not the America to which I pledge allegiance! This is not the land of the free!

Sir (Madam), I urge you to do everything in your power to take action with the agencies responsible for this abhorrent outrage. All of us, not just as caring Americans, but as caring people, must speak up!

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On Behalf of a Ten-Year-Old Girl: “Is This Who We Are”?

Apple Picking 5

 

“Is this who we are?” The title of this op-ed piece is very apt. It follows on an article in Buzzfeed, which describes a 10-year-old undocumented girl with a severe developmental disability. The girl, born in Mexico but brought to this country when she was three months old, was detained after she just had emergency surgery. So, I ask the same question: “Is this who we are?”

 

There are ways in which we can take action. The American Civil Liberties Union is leading a campaign to contact elected officials; the effort has been gaining publicity on Twitter and other social media channels via the #FreeRosa hashtag. We cannot remain silent. It’s not who we are.

 

Special Schools in England Not Only Respect the Child, They Practice It

A School Where Nobody's Judging YouThere are at least two takeaways from this excellent article:
* The importance of being nonjudgmental
* Adults must look at the big picture: there are often events in that child’s life that led to the current situation.

Children are not disposable. As Korczak said, one must never, ever abandon a child in need.

This fine article appeared in the October 17, 2017, edition of The Guardian.

The State of Learning Disabilities: A New Report

Identifying learning disabilities and providing needed services are a critical child welfare issue.

This very important report seeks to inform the public of the issues behind learning disabilities, conditions that are as misunderstood as they are misdiagnosed.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities, a leading advocacy group, just came out with a report, The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. That figure, one in five, or 20 percent, refers to the number of students who have a learning disability, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia. This population is very much misunderstood; all too often, these children are (mis)labeled as lazy or unmotivated or just not as smart as their peers. More often than not, these labels are untrue. Not only are these students at risk of failing school, but also they all too often struggle finding or keeping employment and are disproportionately represented in the prison population.

Despite one in five students having some sort of learning disability, according to this report, only one in 16 receive proper special-education services with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and only one in 50 receive services under Section 504.  This detailed report covers the following:

  • The neuroscience, stigma, and federal laws concerning these students
  • How to identify struggling students
  • Supporting academic success
  • The social, emotional, and behavioral challenges these students face and pose
  • Issues regarding the transitioning to life after high school
  • Recommended policies.

The report provides summaries for each state, with “key data points and comparisons to national averages in several areas such as inclusion in general education classrooms, disciplinary incidents and dropout rates for students with learning and attention issues.”

The bibliographic citation for this report is:

Horowitz, S. H., Rawe, J., & Whittaker, M. C. (2017). The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Revisited: What Do We Tell the Children – and Immigrants (as Well as Refugees)

Playful boy in the expansive courtyard of the Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, Syria

Photo by James Gordon, Los Angeles, California, USA: “Playful boy in the expansive courtyard of the Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, Syria” Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. This mosque, the fourth holiest place in Islam, is now in ruins.

It’s time to revisit two themes: “What do we tell the children?” and “What do we teach the children?”  In other words, v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha, “Love your neighbor (or stranger) as yourself.”
vahavta-lreacha-kamocha
On Saturday, January 27, Trump issued his now-famous executive order banning residents of seven designated predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States. Noteworthy is the fact that the order contains the phrase “foreign terrorist” but not “refugees.” Among these foreign terrorists detained was a four-month-old infant in need of open-heart surgery, and a one-year-old with cancer. In fact, world wide, children, already among the most vulnerable, are suffering in disproportionate numbers.
What do we mean by “extreme vetting”? A Homeland Security official explains that refugees have been been vetted thoroughly all along.

Teaching and Supporting the Children

Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, offers a comprehensive guide for educators and school support staff in dealing with the many complex issues of immigrants and refugees. Says the report,
“Schools should be safe havens that embrace all students and families, regardless of citizenship and national origin, and that includes unaccompanied and refugee children. The 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe ruled that undocumented children have a constitutional right to receive a free public K–12 education, which provides the means to becoming a “self-reliant and self-sufficient participant in society,” the court wrote, and instills the “fundamental values necessary to the maintenance of a democratic political system.” However, today’s increased enforcement measures by the Department of Homeland Security and campaign promises made by the incoming administration threaten that right for thousands of undocumented youth and the 4.1 million U.S.-born children who live in mixed-status households with at least one parent or family member who is undocumented.”
The report offers facts about undocumented students, immigration raids, what school communities can do, and taking action beyond the classroom.
A companion piece, “What Do I Say to Students about Immigration Orders?” offers clear, honest tips for helping undocumented students and children of undocumented parents. This thoughtful essay offers ten additional steps of constructive action teachers and other adult role models can take.

Out Beyond the School

 On Wednesday, February 1, Trump cut a call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull short, refusing to honor America’s earlier pledge to take in 1,200 refugees. These are the refugees who had been relocated to the Papua New Guinea island of Nauru. The refugees consist mainly of families, many children among them. Witnesses – both the children themselves and the human rights group Amnesty International – describe the conditions there as inhumane.
Meanwhile, Samantha Bee had to put aside her humor in her scathing segment that night. Then, again, so was Trevor Noah, using the same c-bomb.

Forces of Good(ness) in the Twitterverse

 Bana Alabed, thankfully safe, had a poignant question for the president, seeking his empathy. Bana is the brave little Syrian girl who has been using Twitter to alert the world of the plight of these children, now political pawns subject to the political whims of egomaniac adults.
bana-02
The video can be found here. Please follow her! Bana’s mother, Fatemah, has also set up a Twitter account. Mother and daughter preach love, peace, and understanding. These are the message we need so much more of.

After the Super Bowl

Here’s the full, uncut version of the famous advertisement by 84 Lumber. It’s beautiful!

Another Look at “The Day After” and “The Trump Effect”on Our School Children

after-the-election-trump-effect-report_page_01

Font cover of new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center

Since wondering “What do we tell the children?” in the aftermath of the 2016 election, much has been written about the sharp increase in bias incidents.  In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported 867 hate incidents in just the first ten days after the 2016 election, of which 183 took place in schools.  Earlier this year, this civil rights organization published a report on the deleterious effect of the open bias and bigotry that characterized much of the campaign; the results of which have been summarized in this space.

Some 10,000 people submitted more than 25,000 comments in this follow-up survey. Most shocking is that many teachers and other educational professionals who participated in the November 14 survey expressed the observation “The ugliness is new,” noting that they have not heard these statements of bigotry earlier in their careers.  Hateful and hurtful words have accompanied Nazi salutes and swastikas, and Confederate flags, also reported in Education Week and the Huffington Post.  (Colleges are also seeing an uptick in bias incidents, raising concern, especially among Jewish students.)  The climate of fear has been affecting teachers and students alike.

Recommendations, with links, are given at the end of the report; they include the following:

  • Administrators should communicate their school’s commitment to acceptance, inclusion, and safety.
  • Ensure students undergoing trauma (eight in ten students from marginalized groups) have the support they need.
  • Enforce anti-bullying strategies.
  • “Encourage courage,” urging all members of the school community to speak up and speak out against hate.  In other words,  “Neutrality won’t work.”
  • Prepare and know how to respond to a crisis.

A photo at the end shows a child holding a hand-written sign reading, “Dear Donald Trump, Please let Mexicans stay here because they may be our parents.”

 

Also noteworthy:

“We Need to Talk” – Post-election support and resources for educators and parents.

Actor and writer George Takei pleaded, “They interned my family.  Please don’t let them do it to Muslims.”

Is this your America, asks a Washington Post reporter.  “If you have never faced discrimination, you don’t get my fear of Trump.”

Schools across the US report an increase in post-election bias.

Comedian Sarah Silverman tells why learning to empathize is critical to our future.

Students and teachers wear safety pins in face of harassment: You are safe with me.

Jonathan Kozol speaks out: “I fight back.”

The City of San Francisco passed a resolution to stand up for all citizens and resist any Trump Administration threats.

A recent NPR piece reports on the problems and challenges of media literacy of students.

“America is worth it, our children are worth it, believe in our country, fight for our values, and never ever give up.”
– Hillary Clinton

 

 

Welcome Home: Hillary Speaks at CDF, Where She Began Her Work on Behalf of Children

On Wednesday, November 16, 2016, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)  hosted its 26th Beat the Odds Celebration at the Newseum in Washington, DC.  CDF honored Children’s Defense Fund Alumna Hillary Rodham Clinton for her dedication and contributions to child advocacy and the Children’s Defense Fund throughout her remarkable career.

“The Children’s Defense Fund is honored to celebrate and recognize a life-long champion of children who never gives up and never stops working to change the odds for children. Never has there been a more urgent time for all of us to help bind our wounds and heal our divisions and work for a nation and world where all children are respected and protected and no child is left behind. We thank Hillary who has been a tireless voice for children from the Children’s Defense Fund’s beginning as a young staff attorney, then board member and board chair,” said Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Secretary Clinton spoke passionately about children and the scourge of childhood poverty.

– See more at: http://www.childrensdefense.org/newsroom/cdf-in-the-news/press-releases/2016/CDFCelebratesHillaryRodhamClinton.html#sthash.mtxugJdB.dpuf