Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Miguel's Story

Miguel and Anita are parents of a preschooler and a 3rd grader at an elementary school in Iowa City, and they have only been living here for a little over two years. Anita is a graduate student at the University of Iowa, and Miguel works 2nd shift at a warehouse distribution center.

Each week, Miguel volunteers for a small amount of time in either his preschooler's class or his 3rd grader's class. He has a good working relationship with the teachers and the staff at the school, and they all know him by name.

If Miguel followed his current schedule, he would be scheduled to volunteer again on January 9, 2014. Over the holidays, the elementary school that Miguel's children go to will roll out their new Raptor ID program. When Miguel showed up on that date, he does not have the required form of ID. He is told that he can return home and retrieve a valid form of ID. Miguel returns home to retrieve his Guatemalan consular ID. It is the only form of official ID that he has. Unfortunately, this form of ID cannot be used with the Raptor ID system. So, the school staff member follows protocol and she informs Miguel, whom she had seen every week of school over the past two years, that she is very sorry but that she cannot allow him to enter the school. Nevertheless, she does inform him that he can go to the District Office and she gives him the address to do so, so that he can have an acceptable form of ID next time. Although his 3rd grade daughter (and her teacher) was expecting him, Miguel cannot volunteer in the classroom.

Miguel had a difficult time getting an chance to make it to the District Office to get an official ID. He didn't have a vehicle, and it would take him at least two hours and fifteen minutes to make the round trip bus ride to the office, and that's assuming that he catches the buses immediately. Unfortunately, he drops off his preschooler at 8:30 am, picks her up at 11:30 am, so it would be virtually impossible for him to get to the District Office during that time. Then, he picks up his older daughter at 3:00 pm. Shortly thereafter, he starts his shift at work. There is no time that Miguel can reasonably get to the District Office, and thus, there is no way for him to continue volunteering in his daughter's school.

Although I have changed the names and other small details in order to make the story anonymous, Miguel's story is based on real stories. And it shows a significant problem with the implementation of the Raptor ID program, particularly for immigrants and low-income people.

I think everyone knows that the policy will have little effect on sexual abuse, Sandy Hook style shootings, or other crimes. But I also recognize that the primary reason for this policy is to cover the district's ass so that if something like that did happen, then the courts would see that the district did due diligence to prevent it. I understand this, but there has to be some way to accomplish that goal without adding additional burdens to some of the most burdened members of our community. Talk with the Center for Worker Justice -- listen to what they have to say. See if there is a solution that accomplishes the district's goals without harming people like Miguel.


  1. Michael,

    We agree on a lot, including the fact the district can work to make this easier - but I am in favor of the policy.

    If Miguel knows this is coming (which he should) he can go to the district office ahead of time and never miss a chance to volunteer. If Michael doesn't know it is coming or that is too inconvenient, he can miss one session of volunteering and take care of it then.

    If the district listens to folks they can make it easier and make adjustments at the school level to make this even easier. This is NOT a high bar.

    I agree with you that it may not help a ton with prevention, but it could help with solving a crime and punishing a perpetrator. A higher chance of getting caught might serve as an ounce of prevention.

    This doesn't have to be hard - it really is very simple - I don't want you in my kid's school if you don't have an ID. Some people without an ID are good folks. Some are not.

  2. Anonymous: Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Miguel can't make it just by skipping a volunteer session. Drop-off, pick-up times, and his work schedule preclude that.

    I also think it is unreasonable to expect that everyone will know about this policy, but I agree that the district can make it easier at the school level.

    "I don't want you in my kid's school if you don't have an ID."

    Would the background check used for volunteers be acceptable? What about a piece of mail with name and address (as used at the DMV) to establish identity? Why require an ID, when its not required for voting, for the DMV, and so forth. The policy isn't burdensome to me, but it is for many others. It is important to hear those voices and respond in a just manner.

    Thanks again for your comment!

  3. Michael,

    I think the background check used for volunteers is acceptable to get the card from the district office, but I want there to be a photo ID shown at SOME point. I have been through that check, but I don't remember what it entailed.

    I think an ID should be required for all of the activities you mentioned.

    Showing an ID just isn't a big deal. Having an ID should be a basic component of living in society. I refuse to accept the argument that getting one is too big a burden to put on a person - especially if that person is going to be in the schools.

  4. Anonymous:

    First, Miguel did have an ID. It just wasn't an acceptable form of ID for the Raptor program. Some consular IDs are, some are not. It is based on limitations in the Raptor software rather than on what is sufficient to establish identity.

    Second, I suspect we disagree about photo ID. For instance, a driver's license is often the first form of photo ID that a person has. It seems that requiring a photo ID for all of these things would present a practical regress problem, i.e., you have to get an official photo ID to get your driver's license, but you had to get have a photo ID before you could get that official photo ID, and so on and so forth.

    I generally think its a good policy to consider how a policy would affect those who are least well off, and evaluate it accordingly. You are right that the policy is no harm to me, but it will likely harm others.

  5. I feel like this program is kind of like having a lock on your house - we know it won't prevent all robberies, but it may keep honest people honest. And it may help catch someone if they make bad decisions and move away from honest..

    When you are not anonymous, there is a higher chance you will have to answer for your behavior. This might not make a difference in how all folks behave, but it can make a difference in how some behave.

    I agree with you about considering how a policy will affect those least well off. I disagree with the argument that this program goes all the way to "harm." I will agree to "inconvenience" and maybe even "considerable inconvenience" , but not "harm." People tend to accomplish what is important to them.

    The district can work to make it easier for folks, but there needs to be SOMETHING there. I am not an expert at establishing ID, but I want the bar set somewhere above "anonymous" to be in the schools.

  6. Michael, does the consular ID have a photo on it? This is Marina.

  7. Hi Marina! It does. It just isn't one that can be processed with the Raptor ID software currently.

  8. Oh, I see. Well, I feel like a photo ID should work. I understand the need for standardization of IDs but it makes sense to me that the school make every effort to make it convenient to have their form of acceptable ID for Raptor so he wouldn't fall through the cracks. Speaking as a previous foreigner, it's tough when you don't have a car!