ICE demands student records at mostly non-white Tennessee grade school, reports say

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents recently visited an elementary school in Tennessee where one-third of the student population is Hispanic, according to media outlets.

They reportedly wanted student records, but officials said they turned them away.

Citing district policy, a spokesperson for Metro Nashville Public Schools told the Nashville Scene — which first reported the incident — that no information from Una Elementary School was given to the agents.

“All MNPS employees, contractors, and volunteers are respectful of the privacy of students and families,” K. Dawn Rutledge said in a statement, according to the Scene. “Confidential student records and information are not to be released.”

But Bryan D. Cox, acting press secretary for ICE, told McClatchy news group its Nashville offices have “no record of any Nashville-based employee having been there during that time period.”

He also cited the agency’s “Sensitive Locations Policy,” which recommends agents avoid any enforcement actions in sensitive places — including schools.

“If the school will provide additional information that could help us clarify whether there may have been another law enforcement agency or office we’d be happy to look into this further,” Cox said in an email. “But we’re going to need more information as we have no record of having been there.”

WZTV reported ICE agents showed up at Una Elementary sometime in September.

According to the school district’s annual diversity report, 33 percent of the students at Una during the 2018-19 school year were Hispanic, while another 31 percent were black.

Nearly 40 percent were classified as English Language Learners (ELL), the report states.

District officials said in a statement released to The Tennessean that only authorized officials like principals can decide whether to release student information.

If someone presents a warrant or court order for such information, the district said principals are expected to call superiors for “support and review,” The Tennessean reported.

According to the newspaper, officials did not say what documents — if any — were presented by the ICE agents during the visit nor what information they were seeking from student records.

But at least one school board member in Nashville was concerned about the visit, the Scene reported.

“This is alarming that they are willing to sort of cross that line,” Gini Pupo-Walker said, according to the Scene. “Really troubling, and I think really creates a lot of urgency for me as a school board member and chair of the governance committee to have us revisit what our policy is on sharing student data.”

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.