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DPS apologized for threatening to report striking teachers to immigration

Denver Public Schools apologized Thursday for telling teachers working on immigration visas that they would be reported to immigration officials if they went on strike.

DENVER — Denver Public Schools apologized Thursday for telling teachers with work visas that they would be reported to immigration officials if they went on strike.

The letter to teachers instructed visa holders to disclose if they were going to strike so they could be reported to immigration.

A DPS spokeswoman told 9NEWS it was “an incorrect communication.”

"This was wrong," superintendent Susana Cordova said. "I cannot begin to express how shocked I was to learn of this message and how deeply sorry I am for the anxiety and fear that this has caused our educators, our family and our community."

Cordova said they are investigating what happened but do not have anyone on administrative leave right now. Board member Jennifer Bacon told 9NEWS there could possibly be staff termination because of this e-mail.

"We don’t believe this was done with malicious intent," Cordova said. At the same time, I know that it will be very difficult to rebuild trust in DPS that has certainly been lost as a result of this."

Ana Rodriguez with Colorado People's Alliance, the organization that shared the email on social media, says she was infuriated. 

"Right away it instills fear in the community," she said." It instills fear that what's supposed to be this entity that cares about immigrants, all of a sudden is trying to scare, intimate and bully our immigrant teachers."

Hans Meyer, an immigration attorney says he didn't think this was malicious, just negligent.

"DPS has had a fairly strong record in the past of supporting immigrant families which is what makes the letter more concerning and more problematic," he said.

"I am deeply, deeply sorry for the hurt we have caused and I am fully committed to rebuild trust with our immigrant educators, students, communities and the whole DPS Denver community," said Cordova on Friday.

Members of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association are prepared to go on the picket line as early as next week. The teachers union is at an impasse with district leaders over compensation and pay structure.

RELATED: DPS teachers strike: All our coverage in one place

DPS backpedaled Thursday when asked by 9NEWS about the veiled threat to immigrants working legally for the district on visas.

“We will work to correct this misunderstanding immediately,” DPS spokesperson Anna Alejo said. “DPS does not inform the government of the names of employees who are participating in a strike.”

Credit: 9NEWS
Screenshot of statement from DPS

Denver’s teachers are waiting to see if the administration of Democratic Governor Jared Polis will intervene to block the strike, as is allowed under Colorado law.

RELATED: Teachers union: DPS strike 'highly unlikely' to begin Monday as state gets involved

The school district is asking for the state to block the strike. The teachers union has asked that the strike be allowed to proceed.

Also on Thursday, the Denver Board of Education hastily dropped plans to award a new contract to Superintendent Susana Cordova, who was promoted recently from the district’s number two post.

On Friday, Cordova said, "I have delayed my contract until we are done with our teacher’s negotiations."

Board member Jennifer Bacon says Cordova will continue to get paid as Deputy Superintendent but if there are any changes to her contract, they'll make up for that time too.  

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