Absences Abound As 'Day Without Immigrants' Hits Oregon Classrooms

By Rob Manning (OPB)
Portland, Oregon Feb. 16, 2017 9:39 p.m.
Woodburn High School.

Woodburn High School.

Phoebe Flanigan / OPB

School districts across the Willamette Valley are reporting higher-than-usual absentee rates among students, likely due to “Day Without Immigrants” actions. From Woodburn to Hillsboro, school officials noticed half-full classrooms, with Latino students appearing to be the most likely to miss school Thursday.


Woodburn saw five or six times its usual absence rate across its elementary, middle and high schools on the immigrant protest day. More than three-quarters of Woodburn students are Latino. Woodburn Superintendent Chuck Ransom told OPB in an email, "Yes, we have been impacted."

"At the elementary and middle schools, where on a typical day we range from 6-8 percent absences for illness, appointments, etc., we're seeing rates averaging above 40 percent," Ransom wrote. "At the high school where absences average 15-20 percent, we're seeing over 60 percent absences [Thursday]."

By mid-afternoon, Oregon's largest school districts were still digging through their attendance information to answer OPB's questions.

Beaverton didn't have information immediately available.


Rob Manning / OPB

Portland Public Schools reported about 500 more absences at just the elementary schools. But officials in Oregon's largest school district didn't have complete information right away.

Salem-Keizer officials said they were getting "unofficial, scattered reports of numbers of kids not in school [Thursday]," according to an email from communications director Jay Remy.

More detailed information was available from school districts, including two on opposite sides of the Portland region, showing similar trends.

Officials in the North Clackamas School District are reporting 1,074 absences Thursday in a school district of 17,000 students. For comparison, a week ago, North Clackamas counted only 643 absences. The near doubling of the absence rate was driven in large part by Latino students who didn’t go to school. North Clackamas said 499 Latino students missed school Thursday, compared with 126, a week ago.

On the region's west side, the Hillsboro School District found 640 absences across just three K-8 schools. Officials didn't provide attendance figures by ethnicity, but the numbers they did provide showed as much as half the student body didn't show up at three majority Latino elementary schools. The highest absence rate was at Free Orchards Elementary, a relatively small K-8 school in Cornelius. Of about 400 total students, 217 missed school Thursday. About 55 percent of Free Orchards' students are Latino.

It was a similar story at Lincoln Street Elementary School, where the school's roughly 540 student body shrank by 249 Thursday. Lincoln Street is 77 percent Latino.

Hillsboro's Witch Hazel Elementary School is also majority Latino (63 percent) and saw significant absences Thursday. Out of Witch Hazel's student body of more than 560 students, 174 children did not attend school.

Some district officials point out that some of the absences could be due to immunization exclusions, since that deadline was this week. But officials acknowledge the exclusions would likely explain only a small fraction of Thursday's absences.