Chattanooga is hosting migrant children for their schooling, although they are not attending the Hamilton County Public Schools.
This, according to a spokesman for that school district.
“We have a staff member, whose job it is to work with unaccompanied youth, who read an article about a facility that might be housing migrant children in Chattanooga. After she read that article, she sent a reminder to our principals of our obligations as a public school system under federal law and precedent of the Supreme Court of the United States requiring all public school systems to provide access to children regardless of their citizenship status. These laws have been in place for decades as have our policies for working with children who may be experiencing homelessness,” said Hamilton County School System spokesman Cody Patterson in an email.
“It turns out the agency taking care of the migrant children is intended to be a short-term placement focused on reunification and they do not enroll their children in public schools but rather use their own online learning program. The agency is run by The Baptiste Group.”
Patterson said that school system officials had no prior knowledge — prior to media reports about the facility — how many children are there, or what their plans are.
“What’s been reported publicly by local media is that there are up to 100 minors there ages 12-17,” Patterson said.
“Since the students will not be enrolled in public schools, we have nothing else to add outside of what’s already been communicated about our policies. All further questions about the children should be directed to the agency working with them, the Baptiste Group.”
Members of the Baptiste Group were unavailable for comment Wednesday evening.
Hamilton County School Board member Rhonda Thurman told The Tennessee Star Wednesday that, while it’s not a school board issue, she still has questions.
“How many are there? Did we have the option to refuse them if the mayor didn’t know it and the governor didn’t know it and the superintendents didn’t know it?” Thurman asked.
“Who approved it if they were going to come to our schools? I just have lots of other questions. Is this just going to be a short term or long-term facility. I don’t know.”
Members of Gov. Bill Lee’s staff did not return The Star’s request for comment before Wednesday’s stated deadline.
The Baptiste Group, according to The Chattanoogan contracts with the federal government to shelter migrant children and “has set up in a former dorm at Tennessee Temple University.”
“Neighbors say a number of adolescents have been arriving in vans,” the website reported.
“The group is advertising for a wide range of bilingual positions to work with the children.”
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