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More than 50K CPS students absent on A Day Without Immigrants

Over 1,000 protesters walked from Union Park to Federal Plaza on Feb. 16.

More than 50,000 students stayed home from Chicago Public Schools on Feb. 16 when the “A Day Without Immigrants” rally was held. | Maria Cardona/ Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools saw an unusual dip in attendance on A Day Without Immigrants last week.

Citing preliminary data, CPS said 14.75 percent — more than 50,000 — of the school district’s 381,000 students were absent on Feb. 16, the same day of nationwide immigration protests. A year earlier, CPS attendance was more than 94 percent.

Attendance of Hispanic students was down significantly, with nearly a quarter of all Hispanic students not coming to school, according to CPS. More than 100 schools saw their attendance rates fall below 80 percent of what they were a year earlier.

Thousands of people rallied in Union Park before marching downtown in support of immigrants’ right Thursday.

Anticipating that the protest could affect attendance, CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson sent a note to parents on Wednesday.

“Every CPS school will welcome all children, regardless of their race, ethnicity or country of origin, and create a safe and affirming environment where those students can learn. We believe that every child has the absolute right to a quality education, which is why we want to see all students in school every day, including this Thursday,” the note read.

In an emailed statement, CPS said it will not allow agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enter schools or access student information except when a warrant or court order is presented.

Records show that most of the undocumented people arrested in raids by immigration officials in five cities earlier this month were not the violent criminals Trump has vowed to target for deportation.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials based in Chicago arrested 239 people in the raids. But more than a quarter — 72 — did not have a criminal background, according to a letter from ICE officials to Democratic members of the U.S. House who requested the data.