This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Schools statewide with significant Latino populations saw less crowded halls and empty seats Monday as the "Day Without Immigrants" boycott rippled into the classroom. At West High School in Salt Lake City, only five showed up for a Spanish class for native speakers, down from nearly 30. Instead of reviewing for a test, Aileen Aviles showed her students "Stand and Deliver," a film about Latino teens defying stereotypes. After all, she wasn't angry to see so many unoccupied desks. "I'm a strong supporter," said Aviles, who is of Puerto Rican descent. In Ogden, nearly 30 percent of the district's 5,409 Latino students were absent Monday, up from 15 percent the previous Monday, Ogden School District spokeswoman Debbie Heffner said.
One elementary, Lewis, had 201 students - just more than half - out Monday, as well as three of 23 teachers.
Schools in Wendover, Utah's only Latino-majority city, reported about a third of their junior high- and high school-aged students did not attend classes.
The boycott was the latest show of Latino solidarity in response to legislation in Congress that would make undocumented immigrants felons. Though the number of absences varied across the state, students at all grade levels stayed home in some areas.
The impact seemed most apparent in heavily Latino neighborhoods. At Jackson Elementary in Salt Lake City, where about 60 percent of students are Latino, the school counted more than four times the average number of absences. Specific districtwide data for the Salt Lake School District was unavailable. While teachers didn't give up on teaching, one second-grade teacher at Jackson decided to postpone a state exam, because too many kids would have to make it up. Of her 21 students, nine were missing. Of the 82 Latino students enrolled at Canyon Elementary School in Hyrum, 35, or 43 percent, were absent. At Mount Logan Middle School, Principal Dan Johnson planned to excuse Latino students with written requests from parents.
Despite that accommodation, only smatterings of students missed class.
Responding to concerns voiced by students, Johnson orchestrated a peaceful rally before school during which hundreds carried banners as they marched along Logan's Main Street.
In Moab, Grand County Spanish teacher Leticia Bentley said all seven students in her morning high school Spanish class stayed home.
In fact, most of the school's 37 Latino students did not attend classes. However, officials at other Grand County schools noted only a few absences. Absenteeism also varied in Utah and Washington counties.
Timpanogos Elementary Principal Diane Bridge said all 12 Latino employees showed up at work at the Provo school, whose student body is 56 percent Latino.
"I talked to them personally and expressed support for them because they are tremendous people," Bridge said. "They all have mixed feelings. They want immigration reform. At the same time, they are all here legally." However, the school did have a higher percentage of student absenteeism - about 60 as opposed to the typical 20.
Lyle Cox, Washington County School District personnel director, said a spot check of elementary and secondary schools showed no noticeable jump in absences among students, staff or teachers.
Latinos make up 10 percent of the district's student body.
Some Latino parents made a point of sending their children to school even if they were skipping work. Pedro Estrada walked his son Roman, a first-grader at Salt Lake's Jackson Elementary, into the building. A legal immigrant from Mexico, Estrada said school was important for his son, for him to one day get a good job.
Tribune reporters Kristen Moulton, Mark Havnes, Mark Eddington and Christopher Smart along with correspondents Arrin Newton Brunson and Lisa J. Church contributed to this story.