Yesterday was supposed to be a "Day Without Immigrants," a movement whereby all immigrants (legal or not) would show America what it would be like at work and school without their contributions.
During the radio show yesterday, I heard from a plant worker who had to shut down facilities in two Iowa towns. I heard from a construction guy who said it was kinda nice not to have translators at the job site. I heard from a guy who went to a popular Mexican restaurant in Omaha for a margarita, only to find it was closed for the day.
But it was the Facebook post of a friend of mine who drives a school bus in South Omaha that really got my attention. She said she only had three students on her bus yesterday morning. That was dramatically lower than normal.
I mentioned that on the radio this morning, and received an e-mail from a listener who said he is always near 19th and Q in the morning, and sees "50 or 60" students walking to South High. Yesterday, "There were maybe 2 kids," he said. The spouse of a South teacher told me "there were quite a few" students missing from class yesterday.
I asked the communication department with Omaha Public Schools, who were nice enough to get back to me, even though many OPS schools are off today with a scheduled workday for teachers.
Kala Morrissey, coordinator of marketing and visual communications with the district, reported an approx. 35% absent rate at Omaha South yesterday, which she said was 'typical' leading up to a long weekend (no school today or Monday, and yesterday was a half day). She noted that, last October, leading up to a similar long weekend, there was an approx. 25% absent rate at South.
These numbers were not limited to Omaha South. I asked what the absent rate was yesterday at, say, Omaha Burke, and was told the absent rate there yesterday was 38%, up from the 26% rate for that same long weekend in October. Burke's enrollment is 15% Hispanic, according to StartClass.
Maybe it was the weather, maybe it's illness, maybe it was the protest, but absent rates were up 10-12% from normal on yesterday's protest day. I don't see that as a coincidence.
Looking specifically at South: According to Niche.com, South's enrollment is 2,560 this school year. That means approx. 896 students were not in school at South High yesterday. That's roughly the entire enrollment of Gretna High School.
These numbers are significant. Is there some sort of stomach bug going around that is an impending pandemic? Are there that many parents who see their students in a school that boasts a proficiency rating of 38% in reading and 27% in math and think, "Ah, what the hell? Let's give them a skip day -- they've earned it!"
Or, were there that many students who have been taught in too many homes and classrooms that social justice is more important than scholastic achievement? This is the same school district that proclaimed this month they would NOT be turning over immigration information to the government, and this is the same high school that (rightfully) took offense after the "green cards" incident a few years ago.
Latino heritage at this majority-Hispanic high school (72%, according to StartClass) is a source of pride for the school and the community, but there is no possible way that my wife's father (they're Hispanic) would have allowed her to miss school for nearly any reason, because an education was/is of utmost importance to him.
It shouldn't be outrageous to suggest that students need to be in school. For their sake, they better have been home sick.
(It seems odd to wish that upon anyone, but, given the circumstances, I'll allow it.)