Harvard Educational Review
Although education scholars have recently focused greater attention on the experiences of undocumented youth in schools, few studies have examined educators' perceptions of their roles and responsibilities with regards to this population. Since the 1982 Supreme Court decision Plyler v. Doe guaranteed education to this group and barred schools from inquiring about immigration status, little additional policy has offered guidance on how schools can support this group while also refraining from identifying it's members. Policies are particularly lacking in new destination areas where there are fewer resources and less infrastructure for new immigrant populations. As increasingly harsh immigration enforcement policies amplify fear and anxiety among families, educators and other service providers are more in need of support than perhaps ever before. Some teachers in new destination areas, however, have found ways to create safe and empowering spaces for undocumented students. We conducted a qualitative case study to explore how such educators understand their roles amidst both this policy void and a political climate in which immigration has become an especially contentious and divisive issue. We interviewed 18 teachers of immigrant students in one new destination area in Virginia, a state experiencing an increase in the undocumented population. We found that teachers took actions to enhance students' feelings of security and normalcy through curricular decisions, emotional support, and even the provision of basic needs. Teacher's actions, which were often spontaneous, adaptive, and resourceful, could be described as agile advocacy. These actions ranged from providing information to families to pushing for school and district policy changes. However, the teachers also encountered many barriers and few supports in these efforts. They felt largely alone and frustrated by the incomprehensibility of the immigration system and the absence of building-and district-level leadership in support of undocumented students.
Original Publication Citation
Parkhouse, H., Massaro, V. R., Cuba, M. J., & Waters, C. N. (2020). Teachers' efforts to support undocumented students within ambiguous policy contexts. Harvard Educational Review, 90(4), 525-549. https://doi.org/10.17763/1943-5045-90.4.525
Parkhouse, Hillary; Massaro, Virginia R.; Cuba, Melissa J.; and Waters, Carolyn N., "Teachers' Efforts to Support Undocumented Students Within Ambiguous Policy Contexts" (2020). Teaching & Learning Faculty Publications. 146.