Denver Public Schools threatened foreign teachers working on visas that they would be reported to immigration authorities if they join a strike that has been approved by the teachers union – but later apologized and retracted the warning.
Educators in the largest public school district in Colorado voted this week to strike if negotiations between the system and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association over the salary structure are unsuccessful.
Teachers had thought Monday could be the first day of a strike, but the school system this week asked state officials to intervene, forcing the timeline for a possible strike into next month.
As the teachers union moved to a strike vote this week, the school system sent a letter to teachers warning those working on visas that they would be reported to U.S. immigration officials. However, federal guidance on this issue does not require that individual teachers working on H-1B and J-1 visas be reported to immigration; federal officials need only be told that a strike has started.
School system officials then sent a second letter apologizing for the first. The district issued a statement saying the error was the result of “a misinterpretation” of information provided by the school system’s law firm and “the communication was in no way intended to cause fear for our educators on visas.”
“Our deepest apologies for any anxiety that was caused by this error,” the statement said.
Sean Davis, a Denver teacher, called the district’s mistake “absolutely sickening.” Davis works at South High School, which has a student population that represents more than 60 countries, and in an email he noted that the Denver school system “constantly sends out communication on how much they value diversity and how much they will protect our immigrant students.”