Tommy Chang’s tenure as the Boston Superintendent of Schools was relatively short (three years) and marked by conflict with the city government. But what brought it to an end was apparently a lawsuit filed against the district by advocates for illegal aliens who claimed that schools provided information about at least one student to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Chang denies the charge but still confirmed that he was resigning. (The Hill)

Multiple civil rights groups sued the Boston Public Schools on Thursday after the school district declined repeatedly to say how often they provide student information to immigration authorities, according to The Associated Press.

The lawsuit accused the Boston system of having a “school to deportation pipeline.”

Chang denied that the school shared student information.

Federal law bars school systems from asking students about their immigration status, and Chang has maintained that the district would never share that information unless required by a court order, according to the Globe.

At the center of the dispute is an unnamed student from East Boston High School who was accused of being involved with a gang. The student was from Honduras and did not have a green card, though he had applied for one. He was detained for approximately 18 months and finally deported, but his court hearings turned up a school incident report about a fight he’d been in. Apparently, the activists looking to sue the school district took this to mean that the school had provided that document to the court.

How concerned should the school have been? As the Boston Globe reported previously, federal agents, including ICE, have been very interested in East Boston High for several years now. It’s allegedly a prime target for recruitment by a gang whose name you are likely familiar with by now… MS-13.

East Boston High has been of particular interest to federal immigration officials. It is one of several area high schools where teenagers in recent years have been recruited by the international street gang known as MS-13, federal law authorities have said. The gang, which federal authorities have said was involved with at least five murders in Greater Boston in recent years, was the subject of a sweeping federal raid in January 2016 that resulted in 56 arrests in the Boston area.

So you’ve got a school where MS-13 is targeting teenagers as recruits in a city where they’ve already been responsible for multiple murders. A 17-year-old Honduran kid is involved in fights and suspected of being involved with the gang. He winds up being detained and deported. And what you’re upset about is that the school might have given a document to the court investigating the matter?

Maybe the problem here isn’t the performance of the superintendent, but with the idea of a federal law that prevents schools from asking students about their immigration status. And it doesn’t seem to be entirely clear that such a law actually exists. What most of these advocates for illegal aliens seem to be referring to is a 2011 memo sent out by the Obama Justice and Education departments providing “clarification.” The memo directs schools not to ask students or parents about their immigration or citizenship status, basing the conclusion on a 1982 Supreme Court decision recognizing the right of all children, regardless of immigration status, to attend public school if they meet the state’s age and residency requirements.

They’re referring to Plyler v. Doe from 1982. In that case, Texas passed a law saying that state education funds could be withheld for students in the country illegally and that schools could refuse to enroll them. The court struck that down, finding that all “persons” (including illegal aliens) were covered under previous court decisions based on the 14th Amendment.

So, in reality, it doesn’t appear that there actually is a federal law forbidding schools from asking about immigration status or even providing information to law enforcement. This came up again just last month when Betsy DeVos was giving testimony before the House Committee on Education. She was asked this same question and opined that it was up to the schools whether or not they collected the information or passed it on to immigration officials. Democrats slammed her for the answer, but since the argument they are making is based on a memo of clarification from the Education Department, it seems to me that she could simply issue a new memo updating their position and the point would be moot.