At Cross Keys High School, in the DeKalb County School District, 86 percent of the students are Hispanic or Latino. Many parents speak English as a second language, if at all.
Photo: AJC FILE PHOTO
Photo: AJC FILE PHOTO

‘I never made deportation threats,’ former Cross Keys teacher says

One of two Cross Keys High School teachers who resigned after being accused of threatening students of color after Donald Trump’s presidential election win says she never did so.

Susan Petre resigned after allegations she’d told students Trump would deport them. 

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” she said by email. “I consistently tried to protect, advocate for, and teach my undocumented students to advocate for themselves against deportation.”

Petre, when reached by phone, allowed her email response to be used as a rebuttal to the allegations.

She also admitted having previously told her students she was voting for Trump.

“All they knew was that I supported Donald Trump,” she said. "Therefore I must be a racist and an advocate of mass deportation. Adults throughout the election got sucked into the mass hysteria; why not my students?”

Petre and another teacher, Diane Clark, were suspended from the school last month after the allegations surfaced. Petre was allowed to resign, while Clark retired from the school district.

Early in the school year, a Hispanic female student said teacher Susan Petre told her class she was glad Donald Trump was running for president. 

“I am against illegal immigration, and they shouldn’t be here,” the teen said Petre told students.

Not exactly what she said, Petre wrote.

“On a number of occasions, I expressed the following opinions: that I was in agreement that undocumented convicted criminals should be deported (and) that if the immigration laws were not going to be applied consistently, then they should be applied humanely,” Petre said.

She mentioned teaching her civics class students lessons on self-advocacy, including writing letters to lawmakers and joining the groups that lobby for Latino and Hispanic resident’s rights.

“The day after the election, the last thing I told my students was that I was going to write a letter for them, which they were free to turn into a petition, advocating amnesty,” she said. “It was the word of the day, which means legal forgiveness.” 

Several incidents nationally were apparently sparked after Trump won the presidential election. A student in a Detroit suburb posted a video of other students chanting “build a wall” toward Hispanic and Latino students. A teacher in Owasso, Okla., was caught on camera complaining about voters after the election.

Anti-Trump protests took place across the country, including in Atlanta, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities.

At Cross Keys, 86 percent of the students are Hispanic or Latino. Most of those parents speak English as a second language, if at all. The school was in the news recently after state officials announced last month that the school reported the third-largest graduation rate increase between 2015 and 2016. Principal Jason Heard said then that helping parents learn English was the key that sparked more parental engagement.

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