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Immigrant mother receives threatening text message after child didn’t log into Zoom

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Update: Following the publication of this story, the principal of Park Elementary apologized to the affected families and committed to making changes. Read the update here.

DURANGO, Colo. — When Daisy, a single mom from Durango, Colorado, found herself in the middle of a global pandemic with her four children, she never imagined the biggest source of her stress would be Zoom.

Daisy, who won’t be sharing her last name because of fear of deportation, lost her job in the middle of her children’s school year. Unemployed and unable to apply for unemployment benefits, she didn’t have enough money to pay for the internet bill. For several weeks, her youngest child wasn’t able to log into Zoom and that absence led to a threatening text from school administrators.

“Daisy,” the text read in Spanish, “if Alex does not sign in on Monday, we will call Child Protective Services for educational abandonment.”

Colorado Voices

Mom gets threatening text after child didn’t log into Zoom


Daisy never imagined that during a pandemic, Zoom would be her biggest source of stress.

Daisy said she felt upset and powerless. “How could they send me to Human Services if I’m trying the best I can to send my child to class,” she said in Spanish.

Marie Voss-Patterson is the Principal at Park Elementary, the school Daisy’s son attends. “We tried letters, attendance letters, truancy letters, we had a [Security Resource Officer] making sure everyone is okay," Voss-Patterson said. "Sometimes we have to say, ‘Hey, we really want your kid in school and at this point when you don’t send your kiddo it’s educational neglect and we do need to report that.’”

Voss-Patterson said the school had remote labs, provided children with Chromebooks and internet "hot spots." For parents like Daisy, who grew up in a different country and are still learning English, virtual classes were close to impossible.

“Park has been a school since 1890 so we will have seven to eight generations of kids who have gone through Park Elementary School in our community and that community where we live, or used to live, was considered the Hispanic part of town” said Voss-Patterson.

During the same time, Voss-Patterson says, Daisy’s son was missing remote classes, and about 10 other students were not signing in.

She admits two other families received texts similar to Daisy’s — texts she says were only sent after repeated attempts to contact the families were not successful.

“We would never threaten to call CPS, unless we feel that it truly is an issue of neglect or abuse,” said Voss-Patterson.

In the case of Park Elementary, none of the families who received a text message about Child Protective Services were referred to the agency. The principal says all the families got in touch with the school afterwards.

The Colorado Department of Human Services told Rocky Mountain PBS that in 2020 there were a total of 4,800 education neglect reports in the state. The previous year’s total was 4,892. The website says that in 70% of the cases, counties can provide services and kids can remain safely at home with their parents.

During the pandemic, Park Elementary has kept students in cohorts; think of them as classrooms. If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, everyone in that cohort has to be quarantined for 10 days. The person who tested positive can only come back with a doctor’s note. That has presented another issue for parents and staff because some students do not have health insurance or a primary care provider. Voss-Patterson said the school has a doctor they can refer students to, but that process can be slow at times. 

Even after Daisy’s son returned to in-person classes, the problems continued. His English Language Learners class has had to quarantine due to COVID-19 cases more than any other class in the school, totaling in 30 additional days of remote learning.

“I don’t know, maybe I’ll ask what’s going on in that room because it’s socially distanced and it’s safe and there’s hand-washing and it’s sort of the luck of the draw,” said Voss-Patterson.

For parents like Daisy, it doesn’t feel like luck of the draw at all. Data shows Latinos have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. With frontline jobs and sometimes multiple families living in one household, social distancing or quarantining is a great challenge for many immigrant families.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, people of color are also at higher-risk for serious illness if they contract COVID-19, and are more likely to be uninsured. 

If there’s one message Daisy wants school administrators to take away from this, it’s for them to be more understanding with parents like her.

Benjamin Waddell helped produce this story. Waddell is an associate professor of sociology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. He is a father, husband, writer, professor, and advocate for social justice. He is a contributing writer for HuffPost, High Country News, The Conversation, and The Week. 

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