A Texas community wants to fire a principal who allegedly bullies undocumented students and uses a modified “Make America Great Again” slogan as the informal school manta.
Undocumented children at Andrews Elementary School in Austin are allowed to receive a public school education under a 1982 federal law. Still, principal Gabbie Soto, 49, has allegedly harassed these students, their families and the teachers who advocate for them.
According to the Statesman, Soto told undocumented parents that their children were not allowed on an April field trip to the fire station and fired two from the Parent-Teacher Association. An Andrews newsletter introducing newly self-appointed PTA members read, “Looking forward to working with our team and Making Andrews Great Again!”
Soto is reportedly the subject of two formal complaints from Andrews employees. District police officers responded to the school three different times, allegedly due to verbal arguments between employees and Soto. A spokesperson from Austin ISD Police Department did not reply to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for incident reports.
Paul Saldaña of the community activist group East Austin Schools Manifesto Coalition tells Yahoo Lifestyle that one 911 call came from a teacher who was allegedly chased by Soto into the restroom. “Some complaints are from teachers who are harassed by the principal when they defend immigrant families,” he says. “We also heard that Soto — who is Latina herself — has been telling students to stop speaking Spanish.”
On Monday, Saldaña’s organization protested against an “anti-immigrant bias” at school, Soto’s use of “illegals” to describe immigrant families, and the MAGA adaption.
Patch reported that former Andrews teacher Daysi Gordon said of Soto, “When we celebrated the retirement of a teacher of more than 30 years, the principal told her she could return to clean the cafeteria…this teacher also retired for the same reasons. The principal of Andrews discriminates against the most vulnerable, parents and students. Apparently following the mandate of MAGA — Make Andrews Great Again — she has diminished participation of undocumented students in the PTA and school in general.”
Civil rights attorney Jim Harrington co-organized the protest. “Soto is known among teachers as a bully — her behavior undermines the messages that schools are safe spaces,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Harrington and Saldaña demanded the Austin Independent School District fire Soto, apologize for her alleged actions, give support to immigrant families and investigate all the allegations.
Parent Gina Bando (who could not be reached by Yahoo Lifestyle) told Fox 7, “My daughter was scared to come back to school because of her. She had physically put her hands on my daughter’s teacher in front of the whole class.”
Bando withdrew her fourth-grade daughter from Andrews Elementary School. “This is a place for them to come and feel safe,” she told Fox 7. “They don’t want to be bullied by their peers why would they want to be bullied by their principal?”
An Austin Independent School District spokesperson tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “About a week ago, it was brought to Austin ISD’s district administration attention that there were complaints from families in the Andrews Elementary School community about certain behaviors that were being exhibited towards immigrant families. We take these allegations very seriously and the district is conducting an investigation. Whether we validate the specific claims or not, what is evident is that there is a feeling of unwelcomeness and that is not okay. At Austin AISD all are welcome.”
Superintendent Paul Cruz also sent a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle, which said, in part: “We strive to create the safest possible environments for our students and employees, providing them the foundation needed to learn, thrive, seek assistance and information, and reach each child’s potential in an education-focused environment, free of insecurity and fear, for all its employees, students and their families, regardless of immigration status. We take allegations that do not align with our core values seriously. We welcome feedback and concerns from students, staff and the greater community as we work together to prepare our students for college, career, and life. When students, staff, and families feel unsafe, we will work collaboratively to restore trust in the community.”
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