Thousands of local parents keep their kids home from school for ‘Day Without Immigrants’

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Students stayed home from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools on Thursday, a day which has become known as a “Day Without Immigrants.”

On Wednesday, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system reported 4,143 absences. On Thursday, that number spiked to 9,855 absences.

While the school system says they can’t confirm the rise in absences was a direct result of a Day Without Immigrants, students who spoke to FOX8 said it certainly was.

“I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal, until my parents started talking about it. That’s how I knew it was a big deal. Once they figured it out, that’s how I knew it was a big deal,” said one Glenn High School student, who identified himself as “Scooter B.”

Hispanic students who spoke with FOX8 said they initially heard about a Day Without Immigrants on social media. Many tell us at first, their parents refused to let them skip school, until they explained what the protest was about.

“We weren’t going to buy anything from the stores, we weren’t going to go to school, we just weren’t going to participate for a day. You know, basically be invisible,” Scooter B said. “Go off the grid.”

The 9,855 absences from the school system represents 17.79 percent of their student body. School officials say there are 14,560 Hispanic students in their system.

“We just probably feel unwanted,” Scooter B said. “We just probably feel unwanted by everything going on.”

The absences transcended all age levels, with the highest percentage of a student body absent being that of Hall-Woodward Elementary school.

Hall-Woodward reported 359 absences, which translates to 51.8 percent of their student body.

The highest number of absences belonged to Parkland High School, where 516 students were out of school today, 35.51 percent of their student population.

“Parents [are not] just seeing it as, ‘oh my kid’s trying to stay home,’ they’re seeing it, they’re actually seeing the message,” Scooter B said.

However, he adds that their actions have not come without criticism from within.

“Some people in the Mexican community are actually saying that, like, ‘oh that’s stupid, why would you do that, that’s stupid, that’s not going to prove anything,’” he said. “I mean, how do you know until you try?”

Students who did report to class today sent progress reports back to those who stayed home, which was an early indication of a Day Without Immigrants’ local footprint.

“Some of my friends, some of my Hispanic friends, they went to school, and it was basically empty, it was dead,” said Mario Bustamante, a Glenn High School student who also stayed home Thursday.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools officials say staff numbers were normal on Thursday.