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Garland, TX community confronts school board over trafficked teachers

By staff

Trafficked teachers and their supporters gather outside the Garland ISD

Garland, TX – On May 28 members of the community, together with some of the affected teachers, confronted the Garland school board about the board's failure to act to help teachers who had been trafficked from the Philippines to work in the Garland school district.

Three teachers and several community supporters addressed the school board, while dozens of other supporters sat in the room wearing t-shirts and buttons in support of the teachers' cause. After the last speaker, the supporters began chanting “When teachers are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” and were escorted from the board meeting. They then set up outside the school administration building and began chanting, before police and security guards ordered them to move back to the sidewalk, where they continued speaking and chanting.

Between 60 and 70 teachers were brought from the Philippines to teach in Garland schools in the early 2000s by a network of unscrupulous recruiters. The recruiters charged the teachers thousands of dollars for services, forced them to pay excessive rents to stay in cramped conditions in housing owned by the recruiters, and committed visa fraud.

Garland Independent School District refused to cut ties with the principal recruiter for years even after a federal audit forced the school to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of backpay to the teachers.

Since the discovery of the fraudulent practices of the recruiters, many of the teachers have lost their work visas and are facing long term unemployment and possible deportation. In the years since being

trafficked to the U.S., the teachers have established families in the country, and deportation is likely to mean separation from children and grandchildren.

Adelaida Legaspi, one of the affected teachers, told the board that due to her family's economic situation, her husband and son have been forced to go stay with his family in California while she stays with a friend in Texas. Legaspi had worked as a special education teacher at Garland ISD, and a Sarteesa Mills, a Garland ISD parent, addressed the board to say that Ms. Legaspi had been a great help to her son when she was his special education teacher.

Jamie Rivadelo, another of the affected teachers, related his experiences with administration. He said that when the facts of all of this first emerged, the superintendent came to visit his classroom and told him that if all Garland ISD teachers were like Rivadelo the superintendent would have no headaches. He said the superintendent set up a meeting to discuss the problem, but the meeting was cancelled before it could be held. He said the next he knew about the situation was when his classroom was visited by a human resources person who told him his employment was terminated. As far as help with the problem, “nothing has been done, nothing has been given, nothing has been offered,” Rivadelo said.

Johnny Beach, president of the school board, responded with what he called a statement of fact to the effect that the problem was entirely at the level of the federal government.

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