By Arelis R. Hernández
A Prince George’s County elementary school principal has been placed on administrative leave, a school system spokeswoman said Friday, after distributing an unauthorized permission slip that said fourth-grade students who are not citizens would not be allowed to go on a planned field trip to the White House.
The school system said Ashanti Foster will not be returning for the rest of the school year to Thomas Stone Elementary School in Mount Rainier, Md., where a majority of students are Hispanic and the children of immigrants.
Prince George’s schools have long arranged White House visits through a National Park Service program, said schools spokeswoman Raven Hill. While the May 28 trip had been approved, the document sent to parents last month by the school was not. The White House tour was canceled as a result of the errant permission slip, and an alternative trip visiting other national monuments and memorial parks in Washington will take place.
“The issue here was whether school staff took appropriate steps to ensure that all students could participate in a meaningful way,” said schools superintendent Monica Goldson in a statement on Friday. “That did not happen.”
The schools chief said she is making “personnel changes” to improve the school’s climate, placing the principal on administrative leave and reviewing the circumstances surrounding the field trip. She named assistant principal Patricia Crosson as acting principal.
Foster did not respond to a request for comment. But in a letter to parents Wednesday, the principal said the “permission form did not reflect our values as a learning community, and for that, I apologize.”
The controversy — first reported by the Route 1 Reporter news site — erupted publicly when Rocio Treminio-Lopez, mayor of nearby Brentwood, Md., posted a copy of the permission slip on social media asking for help explaining its meaning.
The document — written in English and Spanish — sought information including students’ full names, birth dates, country of birth and citizenship status. Students who were not citizens were supposed to provide a passport number.
“If a scholar is not classified as a U.S. Citizen, they will not be able to attend the field trip,” the permission slip said in bold letters at the bottom.
The questions on the form appear to match what congressional staffers ask when arranging free White House tours for constituents, according to an image of that internal application provided to The Washington Post.
A U.S. Secret Service spokesman confirmed that the questions on the permission slip are required of all children seeking a “boarding pass” to the White House. Children who are not citizens must bring a valid passport with them once cleared.
School officials said the problem was not with the identification requirements, per se, but the wording at the bottom of the permission slip Stone sent out.
Prince George’s school officials would not have approved any form or activity that “excluded students based on citizenship, race/ethnicity, sexuality, religion or ability,” the statement said.
Prince George’s County Council member Deni Taveras (D-District 2), whose district includes Stone Elementary, said the planning for the trip was insensitive and could easily have appeared threatening to families in the United States illegally.
Constituents had complained to her office in the past about the school, she said, including a lack of sufficient bilingual staff and a requirement that parents show a government-issued ID to accompany children to class on the first day of the academic year.
Foster later apologized for the ID requirement.
With the field trip permission slip wording, Taveras said, “instead of stopping and thinking, ‘This isn’t a good idea,’ they went forward and created more division.”
Via Washington Post
The principal should have just posted the written rules provided by the secret service. Those rules are, according to the secret service website,a person must be a citizen of the United States or at least provide their passport number to be admitted to the White House. Otherwise they will not be admitted to the White House.
It seems Prince George’s County Public Schools is making a distinction with absolutely no difference between what their principal put at the bottom of that form and what the secret service requires of people who want to enter the White House.
Here is how we tell if Prince George’s County public schools actually thinks about the distinction they seem to be making. When children show up at the White House admissions desk without proof of citizenship and without a passport number, what does Prince George’s County Public Schools think will happen?
When the secret service uniformed personnel separate the children who have no proof of citizenship and no passport ID number from the rest of the class, and segregates then in a location outside of the White House while the rest of the students enter for the tour, what will Prince George’s County Public Schools say to the parents and the community then?
My guess is that Prince George’s County Public Schools will blame the secret service for being racist…even though Prince George’s County public schools has known about these rules for several decades.
More questions need to be asked of Prince George’s County Public Schools about past visits to the White House and what happened to the children who did not have citizenship or passport ID numbers. It would be a very interesting reply.
Hi Miller!! That’s not what happened here though… re-read and read about discrimination laws. You know policy and procedure in the county. So with your logic, if the principal scheduled a trip to a whites only county club for their golf team and the principal just merely told the parents the black students could not go because that’s their policy right?!!! Long tome no see!! Take care !
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The secret service rules from the secret service web page say that non-citizens can go in the white house if they have their passport number. It says otherwise they are barred.
What was Prince George’s County Public Schools doing with children who did not have citizenship and no passport number when they were on a field trip to the White House? Take a look again at the quote from the story.
“The questions on the form appear to match what congressional staffers ask when arranging free White House tours for constituents, according to an image of that internal application provided to The Washington Post.”
“A U.S. Secret Service spokesman confirmed that the questions on the permission slip are required of all children seeking a “boarding pass” to the White House. Children who are not citizens must bring a valid passport with them once cleared.”
“School officials said the problem was not with the identification requirements, per se, but the wording at the bottom of the permission slip Stone sent out.”
Again this is a distinction with not one iota of difference.
So I ask again, what was Prince George’s County Public Schools doing with children who were not citizens and did not have passport numbers when they went to the White House for these field trips over the last several decades?
Add the answer to that would be extremely interesting.
The true issue seems to be that the principal scheduled a field trip and which all of the students who were illegal immigrants without any documentation would not be allowed to participate.
Because the illegal immigrant children would not be allowed to participate, the legal immigrant children and citizen children are forbidden from going on a field trip to the White House.
Has Prince George’s County Public Schools banned all schools in the district from going on field trips to the White House?
Here is another interesting event!
At my high school be just had the air Force ROTC go to a weekend event at a United States military base.
United States military bases do not allow you on base if you cannot follow all of the rules that’s a secret service enforces for entering the White House.
Did the ROTC violate the long-standing rule from Upper Marlboro that no activity can be planned where all students , regardless of their legal status, aren’t able to participate?
Thank you for sharing such informative content on the corruption and challenges in Prince George County. It is very helpful to me as I strive to develop writings which generate deep thought provoking dialogue with youth and parents regarding the school to prison pipeline.