Principal de una escuela en Nueva York presiona a estudiantes inmigrantes para que se transfieran, según denuncias de familias y empleados.

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Génesis Callero believed she was close to reaching her goal.

The 18-year-old senior student had made rapid academic progress since arriving at the Cyberarts Studio Academy in Park Slope, Brooklyn – known as CASA – from Ecuador last year without speaking English. She had passed four of the five required Regents exams and earned more than enough credits to graduate, Genesis and a school employee familiar with her credit transcript told us.

All that was left was to take and pass the English Language Arts (ELA) exam, the only Regents exam that newly arrived immigrants cannot take in their native language. Educators said that students learning English as a second language often need more time and support to pass the exam. Still, Genesis felt optimistic about the possibility of earning her diploma this school year and even had a professional graduation photo taken.

For that reason, the teenager was surprised when school authorities, including principal Valrie Wauchope, summoned her to a meeting just over two months ago and delivered devastating news.

Genesis could not graduate from CASA, nor could her 17-year-old sister Karen, also a senior student, Genesis told us she was told by school officials. They told the girls that they would have to transfer schools and recommended New Dawn Charter High School, tailored for older students at risk of not graduating.

“They told me that no, they cannot help me at that school,” said Genesis in Spanish, recalling her meeting with CASA officials. “It seemed unfair to me.”

The professional graduation photos of Genesis and Karen Callero. (Images courtesy of the Callero Family)

The family felt there was no choice but to transfer their daughters. In a matter of days, Genesis and Karen left CASA.

The teenagers were not alone. According to interviews with the families of six immigrant students from CASA – all senior students who had recently failed the Regents ELA exam, according to families and staff – Wauchope recently told their children that they would not graduate if they stayed at CASA and advised them to transfer immediately.

“If he stays, he won’t graduate,” the mother of another 17-year-old senior student at CASA told us in Spanish, recalling what the principal said. The mom asked to remain anonymous as she fears jeopardizing an active immigration case.

All families have transferred their children from CASA, according to interviews and school records obtained by .

Wauchope, in her first year as principal of CASA, did not respond to phone calls or an email we sent requesting comment. Department of Education spokeswoman, Chyann Tull, said: “We take allegations that any student has been pressured to transfer from their school very seriously and will investigate all formal complaints as they arise. Every student has the right to remain enrolled in their school until graduation and to be immersed in a supportive learning environment.” Tull did not immediately state whether the department had received complaints about CASA.

Three school employees, speaking anonymously for fear of reprisals, maintain that students could have graduated from CASA with more time. Immigrant students often do not pass the Regents ELA exam on the first try but can pass with additional time and support. Only 27% of English language learners in the city passed the Regents ELA exam in 2023, according to state data. Under New York laws, students can stay in school until the school year they turn 21.

Employees suspect that students were pressured to transfer because if they did not graduate this year, it would harm the school’s four-year graduation rate – a key measure of school principal performance in the city. CASA’s four-year graduation rate in June 2023 was 75%, a rate lower than the city’s average of 81%.

“These are our best students. They come to school every day, pass their other Regents exams,” an employee said, adding that some students are homeless and have not been in the country for long. “All this because they can’t pass their English Regents exams in time. Pressuring them to transfer… is shameful.”

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