POSTED: Monday, November 15, 2010 - 7:48pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - 9:16pm
Did an El Paso school pressure students to quit in order to improve the school's academic standing?
That question is been raised before with Bowie High School.
Now, it's being raised again after several students came forward to talk about it.
As strange as it may sound, some believe the El Paso Independent School District has bullied some students into dropping out of school.
17 year-old Cesar Diaz is one of them.
"I don't think that's fair because we are citizens of the United States and we have all the right to study here and to finish our high school. I know that there are a lot of kids that he has done the same and I don't know what else to do because I really want to study and finish my high school, me and my brother," Diaz said.
Students are claiming that they were given no other option but to leave Bowie High School.
This student says she too was forced out by the principal at Bowie, saying to stay in, her family would have to go to court and pay a lot of money.
She asked us not to show her face, fearing retribution from district officials.
"Mr. Chavez said that no matter if I stayed and paid the court money, that no matter what I would fail for the year and that he could no longer have me there in his school," the student said.
"He (Dr. Chavez) told my sister to send me to Juarez with my parents. If she didn't we would have to go to court and she would have to pay $500 and I would have to pay $500," the student said.
State Senator Eliot Shapleigh says he has heard these same stories from other students in EPISD.
"I'm talking about U.S. citizens have a birth certificate, born here in this country. And they're telling them, you can't come to school today," Shapleigh said.
"It's been going on since at least 2007. The big years are 2007 and 2008. Because that was the highest year of pressure from TAKS testing. The No Child Left Behind law kicked in, they had a set of kids they had to do something with and rather than give them the tutoring and education that they needed, they disappeared them," Shapleigh said.
"Disappearing" is Shapleigh's term for forcing students out of school, who would soon be taking the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.
"What they're doing is getting them out of the classroom so they can test just the top half and have good TAKS scores," Shapleigh said.
The numbers tell their own story:
87% of the freshman class in 2005 went on to become sophomores the next year.
79% of the freshman class in 2006 became sophomores.
In 2007, the numbers took a big drop.
The number of freshmen moving to the sophomore class was less than half, 44.6%
And it's that sophomore class that would soon be taking the TAKS test.
Critics say the school targeted those they believed would not score well and edged them out of school.
One of those was 17 year-old Cesar Diaz.
Though he says he was a good student at Bowie High, earning A's and B's, today, both he and his brother, are out of school.
"We're not doing nothing. We're just here we're not studying and that's bad," Diaz said.
Diaz says that Bowie High School Principal Jesus Chavez removed him from the school claiming that he was not an El Paso resident.
"I was living here with my aunt. But, my mom got sick and that's the only reason I was crossing the border was to go and see her, because I mean she's my mom," Diaz said.
"He just told us that you were crossing the border and you can't be here anymore. And he told us that he had persons in the border seeing which students came to Bowie High School from El Chamizal. And then he told us that he was spying on my house, on my aunt's house that we're living here and that he didn't see when we were going out. And that he had been spying on us for a long time, since we got to Bowie High School," Diaz said.
"They don't tell you what the law requires them to tell you. That you have an absolute right to be at school when you're an American citizen and you have a residency there. They don't tell you that you can go over to the district and appeal it. They just roust you right out of school. And so all of these students show up at a charter school. So, now we're paying for them twice," Shapleigh said.
We've requested an on camera interview from Principal Chavez or a spokesperson from EPISD so far that hasn't happened. We asked the district for comment and they said they wouldn't respond to our story unless we gave them the names of all of the student's we interviewed. They also asked for personal information about the students. We declined this afternoon, the EPISD responded to the claims in this story.
Spokeswoman Berenice Zubia says,
"The allegations were found to be untrue by the district."
"The Texas Education Agency also investigated and found them not to have any merit."
"We are very proud of the remarkable progress that Bowie High School and the entire district are making."
Tonight, we'll talk an ex-Bowie employee who confirms Senator Shapleigh's allegations and says she was shocked by what she saw coming from Bowie.