Can a teacher inquire about a student’s immigration status?

Commissioner Morath decided the case of Clark v. Fort Worth ISD without making any ruling on the constitutional issue the facts presented. This is the well-publicized case in which a teacher sent tweets to President Trump, unaware of the fact that tweets are widely available on the Internet. What she thought was a private communication to the President was there for the whole world to see.   The tweets included things like this:

FWISD is loaded with illegal students from Mexico.

Anything you can do to remove the illegals from Fort Worth would be greatly appreciated.

Apparently, the teacher was unaware of a lot of things. She did not understand how Twitter works, and she was unaware of the Supreme Court’s decision of Plyler v. Doe (1982).  If she had been aware of it, she would have known that students who lack American citizenship are not “illegals.”   They are entitled to Equal Protection of our laws and constitution, which includes the right to attend the free public schools.  So sayeth the Supreme Court. 

You can understand why school officials in Fort Worth would be concerned that the teacher’s viral tweets would generate fear among immigrant families, and, in fact, even among American citizens of Hispanic origin.  That concern led the district to terminate the teacher’s employment.  On November 25th the Commissioner overturned that decision for reasons we explained in the Daily Dawg on December 9th

The Commissioner did not make a ruling, one way or the other, on the constitutional issue.  But he did make some comments that imply that a teacher who violated the ruling in Plyler could be terminated.  The Commissioner noted that the district did not conclude that Ms. Clark violated Plyler but he also told us what kind of behavior would do that:

To violate the holding in Plyler, Petitioner would either need to refuse to educate a child based on the child’s immigration status or inquire into a child’s immigration status. 

I take that to mean that the Commissioner views the act of asking a question (e.g., “is this child an American citizen?”) as a violation of a clearly established constitutional ruling.  I think the Commissioner implies, but does not specifically determine, that such a violation would justify teacher termination. 

It would certainly justify a very strong reprimand and reminder. 


Tomorrow: How to get fired by TEA and win $200,000.