But in declarations filed in connection with a lawsuit in Washington state over the separations, officials in Boston, Chelsea and Somerville say they would need to dedicate special resources to help the kids overcome the trauma that comes from being forcibly removed from their parents.
"The policy of separating children from their parents may result in harms to children that will make it exponentially harder for BPS to educate these children," wrote Priya Tahiliani, assistant superintendent for BPS's Office of English Learners.
Mary Borque, school superintendent in Chelsea, where 86% of students identify as Hispanic, wrote she is already seeing problems - including some not directly related to education:
The ongoing fear of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") and deportation, and increased ICE visibility, in the community has children arriving at school upset, fearful, and in tears, and has led families to avoid seeking health and preventive services. This delay in seeking care may lead to more serious health issues and may result in higher costs for the state. These problems will only compound as immigrant children arrive in the community after having been forcibly separated from their parents by immigration officials.
Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone and School Superintendent Mary Skipper wrote:
Anti-immigrant federal policies have created a culture of fear that has eroded trust in the public and local authorities. As a result, many foreign-born Somerville residents are less likely to report violences, crime, abuse, and other harmful community acts. This impact will only get worse as a result of the fear of widespread family separation.
The declarations are included among hundreds of pages of filings in the case, posted by Adam Klasfeld, a reporter for Courthouse News Service
In their declarations, the officials in the three cities cite the specific challenges of educating children suffering trauma from being ripped away from their parents.
Children who have been separated from their family may experience serious trauma and uncertainty about their future; traumatic events have an impact on the brain and brain development. Traumatic events and the impact on the prefrontal cortex of the brain leave children in these cases living in a constant flight or fight status which makes it more challenging for students to access learning. Many of these students are more likely to need additional counseling services and emotional supports. Untreated trauma may lead to the need for special education services. They are also more likely to have difficulty with self-regulation and building trusting relationships.
Without parents to care for them, these children may also suffer from food or housing insecurity.
They may also be vulnerable to trafficking and other exploitation.
CPS will incur additional costs as a result of the particular vulnerabilities of children who have been separated from their parents. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which funds CPS through a complex formula, will also incur additional costs. In Chelsea, state funding accounts for more than 63 percent of education spending.
CPS social workers and guidance counselors may need to spend more time with these students, to help them overcome the impacts of the trauma inflicted on them. Class sizes will increase as money is taken from regular education in order to hire more social workers and guidance counselors to address this increasing at-risk student population.
Children who suffer trauma are also more likely to require more intense special education support services in the area of emotional impairment as a result of trauma, costing the city and state additional money.
Curtatone and Skipper wrote:
Children who have been separated from their familiy are deeply traumatized by that experience. They may be scared even to go to school and be away from their caregivers, and they could develop long-lasting mental health, behavioral and special education needs.
Trauma can undermine a child's ability to learn and grow in the classroom. Evidence suggests if a child experiences some form of trauma - abuse, separation, death or violence - she may develop a different set of needs that should be addressed to be successful in school. Children who suffer trauma are also more likely to require special services, costing the city and state additional money.
For example, SPS social workers and guidances counselors may need to spend more time with these students, to help them overcome the impacts of the trauma inflicted on them, stretching an already over-burdened staff. Moreover, children with signficant trauma may require special education services due to mental health-related disabilities.
For a child without a parent or guardian, SPS teachers and administrators must take extra care to make sure that a child's educational needs are being met, requiring extra time and resources from the district and the Commonwealth. The City and schools may also have to address food or housing insecurity that may result if children are not living with their parents.
Tahiliani echoed these concerns and said BPS is already devoting extra resources to train teachers and support staff to help students get the sort of education they deserve.
File with statements by local education officials (8.8M PDF, search for "Exhibit 67" for Somerville, "Exhibit 73" for Chelsea and "Exhibit 74" for Boston).
More statements (11.8M PDF, search for "Exhibit 6" for a statement from a woman now living in Framingham who had her child taken from her).
More statements (22.2M PDF).
H/t Eartha Kitteh.