Austin ISD investigating principal after discrimination claims

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin ISD principal is on leave and under investigation after multiple grievances were filed against her, claiming she discriminated against undocumented families, students and staff.

The education advocacy group East Austin Schools Manifesto Coalition organized a press conference outside Andrews Elementary Monday. 

There, community leaders and parents said Andrews Principal Gabriela Soto referred to undocumented parents as illegals, removed undocumented PTA board members, prevented undocumented parents from going on school field trips and prevented students from speaking Spanish.

“Intimidation game was her favorite, once she knew she could get away with it, she went full force,” said parent Gina Banda, who ended up pulling her 4th grader out of the school last fall. 

Soto took over as the Andrews Elementary principal in January 2018. 

Prior to that she worked at the Administrative Supervisor for the Middle Schools Office for AISD.

“To have that happening, occur here in our city at a campus where the campus leader is Latina herself, it’s really troubling and disheartening,” said Paul Saldana, an organizer with the East Austin Schools Manifesto Coalition and former school board member. 

Austin ISD’s Chief Officer For School Leadership Michelle Cavazos confirmed the district opened an investigation last semester after receiving complaints about Soto.

“We do offer our sincere apology to the families in the Andrews community,” Cavazos said. “The alleged actions do not reflect our beliefs and values as a district, and they are unacceptable,” she said.

In 2017 Austin ISD passed a resolution that said in part, “we want our community to feel that the schools and classrooms are safe, welcoming and inclusive places for all students and all families, regardless of their immigration status.”

The district offered no timeline on the investigation but said it still needs to interview more people.

Parents are demanding more.

“I hope they just get rid of her,” said Banda. “I hope she apologizes publicly to all these parents.”

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