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Lawsuit: Collier County High School Refuses to Enroll Immigrant Students

Collier County Public Schools
A lawsuit alleges that students who tried to enroll at Immokalee High School were sent instead to adult English classes.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges Collier County Public Schools are refusing to enroll immigrant students, a violation of federal and state law. Instead, the complaint says, 16- and 17-year-olds from Haiti and Guatemala have been steered to English-only adult-education classes.

TaniaGalloni is an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group representing students in the suit. Galloni says public school registration is supposed to be straightforward: “You walk into school, you enroll, you begin classes; These students are being turned away at the schoolhouse door.”


A spokesperson said the school district doesn’t comment on pending litigation. The complaint alleges that students who wanted to go to high school ended up instead at a local technical college that offers English, but “no math, no science, no social studies,” Galloni said.  “It’s not for high school credit; it’s not for a diploma,” she added.

“A public education is about the classroom, but it’s not just about the classroom. You learn English and you learn about American culture and you learn about the society by interacting with other kids your age,” Galloni said.

     Palm Beach County Public Schools settled similar lawsuits over treatment of children from Central America as recently as six months ago. A spokesperson there declined to comment, citing ongoing efforts to reform enrollment and discipline for immigrant students. That district’s practices continue to be monitored under the terms of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.