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Unaccompanied Minors Bring Hope and Trauma to U.S. Schools, Study Finds

Unaccompanied Minors Bring Hope and Trauma to U.S. Schools, Study Finds

U.S. schools have reported an influx of unaccompanied minors in the last few years, and schools are trying their best to keep up. 

According to an article on HechingerReport.org, 66,127 children were estimated to have crossed the U.S.-Mexican border between Oct. 1, 2013 and August 31, 2014. The article highlights a student named Brandon, who is one of these minors.

"Like most new arrivals, Brandon is a here for a complex web of reasons: to flee wanton violence, to escape grinding poverty, and to reunite with family living in the U.S.," the article said. "Whatever their reasons for coming, the vast majority of the newly arrived children — both the ones the government caught on the way here and the unknown number who made it across without getting picked up by Border Patrol — are now attending the one American institution legally bound to serve them: public schools."

A majority of those unaccompanied minors, or "58 percent of the children arriving here have left war-like conditions that could qualify them for international protection as refugees, according to a recent report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, commonly known as UNHCR," the article said.

"In the meantime, schools across the country are enrolling large numbers of newly arrived Central American students and trying to figure out the best way to serve them," HechingerReport said.

New arrivals, the article said, "have had little formal schooling."

"A majority stopped attending school after sixth grade, according to UNHCR," the article said. "In addition to learning English and the subject matter of their various classes, they also must learn to raise their hands to answer questions, change classes when a bell rings and never wander the halls without a bathroom pass. And there are still those normal teenage concerns: remembering one’s locker combination and flirting, now in a new language."

California, for example, "received 4,680 children from detention centers between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2014 according to the federal Office for Refugee Resettlement." Brandon attends high school in Oakland, a school district that "enrolled students from 346 Central American families during the last school year."

Nate Dunstan, who works at the district's Transitional Students and Families Unit said that "just over 200 of those new students have a deportation hearing scheduled. The others are either here legally or were simply never caught."

Dunstan, the article said, "suspects that many fall into the latter category."

“It is, strictly speaking, illegal to flat out ask for someone’s immigration status," he said. “But there are other ways to ask. And it’s not about their status; it’s about [getting them] the services they need.”

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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