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Boycotting immigrants affect schools
May 10, 2006 12:00 am
May 2, 2006 – Despite minimal participation by local businesses, Lebanon schools took a measurable hit Monday as the nationwide immigrant boycott hit home and sparked higher than average absenteeism in central Wilson County.
Lebanon Special School District officials reported 33 percent of Hispanic students enrolled did not attend class Monday in what they assumed was a show of support for the "Day Without Immigrants" protest sweeping the country.
LSSD Attendance Supervisor Barbara Fisher said the immigrant boycott greatly affected the district's absenteeism rate Monday.
"Overall there was a big jump in absenteeism today," Fisher said Monday afternoon following a tallying of the district's overall attendance for the day.
Unlike the county school system, LSSD's Hispanic student population is quite large with 216 Hispanic students enrolled in the district. City school officials said the district's total enrollment is 3,034 students.
"Seventy-three of our 216 Hispanic students did not report to class today," Fisher said.
A review of all school attendance reports revealed examples of 15 students not in class at Castle Heights Upper Elementary School and 18 students absent from Byars-Dowdy and Sam Houston elementary schools. Fisher said, generally, the schools have two to three students out each day.
"We were concerned we might see a difference today," Fisher said. "These numbers show the boycott made a difference, for whatever reasons."
The boycott made little difference in the county school system with officials saying things were normal with students and faculty in class. Wilson County Director of Schools Dr. Jim Duncan said the immigrants boycott did not directly affect the school system. He said only about 65 to 70 Hispanic students are enrolled systemwide.
"We had meetings last week discussing the possibility of an impact of the boycott," Duncan said. "But we've seen no real impact at all. No principals have called me to say there is higher than average absenteeism."
Duncan said Lebanon High School has a higher number of Hispanics, but Principal Don Hassler did not inform him of anything unusual with student rolls Monday.
Additionally, Duncan contacted the system's contracted GCA maintenance service Monday morning.
"GCA said they knew of no work stoppage because of the boycott," Duncan said.
But schools were not the only local sector affected by the nationwide "Day Without Immigrants."
One local latino grocery store shut its doors for the day, joining millions of working immigrants who stayed home from work Monday to show what their absence would mean to the U.S. economy.
Sebastian Juan, who lives in Cookville and owns Na Tienda Hispana on South Maple Street, locked up his store and stayed home Monday.
Juan has owned the small store for three years and has one employee, his brother-in-law Ronaldo Valtisan. Valtisan, too, stayed home from work Monday.
"I wanted to be aligned with my community, my people," Juan said from his home Monday.
Despite estimating more than a hundred of his customers would be disrupted by his absence, Juan said most were supportive of his participation in the boycott.
Juan said he let his customers know last week he would be closed Monday.
"Everybody wants to help. So they knew that we're going to be closed today," said Juan.
But he personally had mixed feelings about the futility of the protest.
"I'm not really sure that it's the right thing," Juan said. "But I wanted to help. Because it's important to get everybody who wants to be able to work here legally. And this was the only way we could do it with a lot of people."
Mt. Juliet Managing Editor Laurie Everett can be reached at 754-6397 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Staff Writer Jared Allen can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 15 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.