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Austin ISD Removes Andrews Principal Accused Of Discriminating Against Immigrant Parents

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Gina Banda holds a sign during a protest against Andrews Elementary Principal Gabriela Soto on Monday.

The Austin Independent School District has removed Andrews Elementary Principal Gabriela Soto after parents and teachers accused her of discriminating against immigrant parents. 

A group of school advocates held a press conference Monday to publicize these accusations. Parents said Soto made negative comments toward immigrant parents and wouldn't let parents serve on the PTA board because of their immigration status. They cited a picture Soto posted of new PTA board members with the caption "Make Andrews Great Again."

Soto had been on leave since March. The district said she was removed from campus and won't be returning. It said Diana Vallejo would continue to serve as substitute principal.

In a letter sent Wednesday to parents, the district said it "would continue to review and address the concerns that have been brought forward regarding Andrews Elementary."

The letter continues:

We will work with Ms. Vallejo to continue to create the safest possible environment for Andrews students, families, and employees, providing them with the foundation needed to learn, thrive, seek assistance and information, and reach each child’s potential in an education-focused environment, free of insecurity and fear, regardless of immigration status. We are committed to working collaboratively to restore trust.

The East Austin Schools Manifesto Coalition released a statement thanking community leaders and others for condemning Soto's actions, but said not enough has been done to change the culture within AISD.

"Sadly, the Superintendent is Latino, the Board President is Latino, and neither have addressed these ongoing incidents publicly and or issued an apology and or plan of action to address the existing systemic issues within the district," it said.

The group demanded the district protect all students from "anti-immigrant rhetoric, bullying and discrimination."

The district told parents it would provide information about next steps soon.

This post has been updated. 

Clarification: An earlier version of this post said Soto was fired. The district says she was removed from campus and won't be returning. It said Soto is on leave until April 26 and can't comment on her status until then. 

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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