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Austin ISD removes Andrews principal accused of discriminating against immigrant parents

Friday, April 12, 2019 by Claire McInerny, KUT

The Austin Independent School District has removed Andrews Elementary Principal Gabriela Soto after parents and teachers accused her of discriminating against immigrant parents.

A group of school advocates held a press conference Monday to publicize the accusations. Parents said Soto made negative comments about immigrant parents and wouldn’t let parents serve on the PTA board because of their immigration status. They cited a picture Soto posted of new PTA board members with the caption “Make Andrews Great Again.”

Soto had been on leave since March. The district said she was removed from campus and won’t be returning, and that Diana Vallejo will continue to serve as substitute principal.

In a letter sent to parents on Wednesday, AISD said it “would continue to review and address the concerns that have been brought forward regarding Andrews Elementary.”

The letter continues:

We will work with Ms. Vallejo to continue to create the safest possible environment for Andrews students, families, and employees, providing them with the foundation needed to learn, thrive, seek assistance and information, and reach each child’s potential in an education-focused environment, free of insecurity and fear, regardless of immigration status. We are committed to working collaboratively to restore trust.

The East Austin Schools Manifesto Coalition released a statement thanking community leaders and others for condemning Soto’s actions, but said not enough has been done to change the culture within AISD.

“Sadly, the Superintendent is Latino, the Board President is Latino, and neither have addressed these ongoing incidents publicly and/or issued an apology and/or plan of action to address the existing systemic issues within the district,” the statement read.

The group demanded the district protect all students from “anti-immigrant rhetoric, bullying and discrimination.”

AISD officials told parents the district would provide information about next steps soon.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT.

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