A Providence, Rhode Island, assistant principal who attempted to solicit donations from staff appeared to know she was raising money to fund human traffickers, and that a student’s family was in danger, according to emails obtained through a public records request by Parents Defending Education (PDE), a parental rights organization.
On Jan. 26, Mount Pleasant High School Assistant Principal Stefani Harvey sent an email to other staff members asking for $2,000 of donations for a student who needed to pay back a “‘Coyote,’ which is a group that helps people.” However, in an earlier Jan. 6 email from another coworker to Harvey, obtained by PDE, the assistant principal was told that the student was brought to the country by human traffickers and that the student’s family could be killed if the smugglers were not paid $2,000.
In the Jan. 6 email exchange, Harvey received an email from a guidance counselor, whose name has been redacted, which explained that the student had been coming into school late because he had been working to try to pay off the coyote.
“When they come illegal, they usually give them a time frame to make a payment of $5000 dollars to those, who bring them illegal,” the email read. “Our student has been working extra hours to pay them and to support his family in Guatemala. Not ignoring that this kid lives here by himself and has no support from anyone. He only owes $2000 out of the $5000, but if he does not pay that by February 1, they will kill his family in his country.”
Twenty days later, Harvey then sent an email to staff members explaining that an immigrant student had until Feb. 1 to pay the “coyotes” $5,000, for bringing him to the United States.
After Harvey sent her Jan. 26 email to staff soliciting donations, Ty’Relle Stephens, a Providence Public School Board member, wrote an email to several staff members about the “PR damage,” stating that the media had claimed that a teacher was “knowingly aiding and abetting human traffickers, which has incensed right-wing extremists.”
🚨UPDATE: Emails FOIA’d by @DefendingEd from Mount Pleasant High School in Rhode Island show that the assistant principal knew she was raising money for human traffickers and was aware that student’s family was in danger.
— Nicki Neily (@nickineily) June 28, 2023
“The media has portrayed PPSD [Providence Public School District] staff as knowingly aiding and abetting human traffickers, which has incensed right-wing extremists,” Stephens wrote. “At this time, if we are able to say unequivocally that that is not the case, let’s make it happen. If we are able to say PPSD staff need more training surrounding illegal immigration, let’s make it happen. The Tucker Carlson Tonight talk show and other news media has reached out to me as you can see below. I have declined to comment because I’m waiting for RIDE/PPSD to draft a response to control the narrative. But I’m getting tired of PPSD always in the news for all the wrong reasons.”
The school district first claimed the email was a “fake” and that they did not have a student who was being “human trafficked.” A day after the email had been sent, the school’s principal noted that “the nature of the request” was “not appropriate” and that all funds raised for the immigrant student would be returned.
Following Harvey’s Jan. 26 email, the school district placed the assistant principal on leave. The Providence Police Department began an investigation into the incident in February.
“There are so many red flags in this story — how is it possible that an assistant principal would think it appropriate to fundraise for a human trafficking operation instead of alerting law enforcement?” Nicole Neily, president of PDE, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The assistant principal’s email demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge that Coyotes are criminal human smugglers. The subsequent attempt by a Providence Public School District Board Member to minimize what happened while casting anyone asking questions as ‘right wing extremists’ is also appalling but also not surprising.”
Mount Pleasant High School, Providence Public School District and Stephens did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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