Update on Incorrect Information Regarding DPS Employees on Visas

Feb. 5, 2019
 

Lea esta carta en español.

Dear DPS Community,

We have completed a review of the circumstances leading to incorrect information being provided to some of our educators on visas and would like to share the results with you.

First, I want to reiterate our deep appreciation for our educators on visas and all of our immigrant communities. I deeply regret the negative impact this misinformation had on our educators and communities and I know how important it will be for us to rebuild trust.

Second, DPS has not and will never report employees to immigration. Over a period of two days, incorrect information was shared, but at no time did anyone from DPS ever contact immigration, nor did anyone share personal information about our employees on visa. Here is what occurred based on our review:

  • DPS has over 100 immigrant bilingual educators working in our classrooms under H-1B visas and J visas.
  • An employee in Human Resources works full-time to support the visa process for these individuals.
  • This employee works directly with an outside law firm, Kolko & Casey P.C., to follow all requirements associated with the visa process. The law firm processes all individual cases for DPS employees who are working under an H-1B visa.
  • After the DCTA voted to strike, many teachers on visas and their principals asked HR if the teachers could strike.
  • The HR employee asked the outside law firm for guidance and they provided the email linked here. The immigration firm stated that DPS is legally required to notify the U.S. Department of Labor within three days of a strike and that a strike could “have a significant impact on H-1B employees (current and pending).”
  • On Jan. 22 at 11:44 a.m., based on a misunderstanding of this guidance, the HR employee sent an email to two other Human Resources Partners who support schools. She did not consult with in-house DPS lawyers or share the language with her supervisor prior to sending. It said:
    • In the [e]vent you have teachers on H or J visa that choose to strike we need to be informed as soon as possible as we are required to inform immigration and the department of state. If they have a pending case and choose to strike this could impact the decision on the case. I would advise any teacher inquiring about their personal situation to contact the immigration attorney or myself. They can seek advisement with regards to their personal situation directly from the attorney.
  • This email was incorrect on three levels:
    • She wrote that we are required to inform “immigration” when she intended to write that DPS is required to notify our immigration attorney;
    • She incorrectly referenced notifying the Department of State, which administers the district’s J visa program, instead of the Department of Labor, which administers the district’s H-1B visa program; and
    • She included her mistaken belief that our immigration attorney needed to be notified of the individual teachers on visas who chose to participate in a strike. This is not correct. The district is only required to notify the Department of Labor that a strike is occurring, not of any individual choices to strike or not strike.
  • Between the afternoon of Jan. 22 and Jan. 23, this information was shared with several DPS school leaders. The HR employees never intended that an email would go directly to teachers. However, they did not take appropriate steps to safeguard that information or prevent school leaders from sharing it with teachers. Two DPS school leaders shared it with several of their employees who are on visas so that they would know about the option to reach out to the immigration attorney.
  • On the evening of Jan. 24, at the end of the School Board meeting, I was informed by a teacher about one of the emails that had incorrect information. I immediately instigated a review, which led to my statement and press conference to assure our employees that they can participate in the strike and that the information was incorrect.
Our Commitments Moving Forward

We are passionate about supporting our immigrant employees. For more than 10 years, DPS has supported immigrant teachers by sponsoring their visas, facilitating their employment and ensuring that their employment complies with all applicable legal requirements. We are deeply sorry for the negative impact that the release of this misinformation had on our immigrant teachers and communities.

While our review demonstrated that no individual was acting with malicious intent, we understand the profound damage that has been caused and will do everything in our power to repair our relationships with our teachers and communities. To remedy the harm that we have caused, DPS is taking the following actions to address our areas for growth:

We are deeply sorry for the pain and anxiety that we have caused and hope that our communities can work with us to heal. We hope that everyone will join us in this healing effort and that these mistakes not be used as a means to create further fear and division among our employees and our communities. We are committed to learning from these mistakes and to repairing the fractured relationships that they have caused.

If you ever have concerns about discrimination, harassment or retaliation (that you or someone else has experienced) you can share your concerns directly or anonymously through our Integra Hotline. We encourage all members of Team DPS and our community to take an active role in calling out any actions or words that do not align with our stated values.

Warm Regards,

Susana