(NewsNation) — Assistant Principal at Mount Pleasant High School in Providence, Rhode Island, is placed on paid leave after emailing faculty and students asking for thousands of dollars to help settle a human trafficking debt.
On January 26, Assistant Principal Stefani Harvey sent out an email asking for donations to help the student “who came to America with ‘Coyote’.”
Harvey described “Coyote” as “a group that helps people,” although the term usually refers to someone who smuggles migrants across the US-Mexico border.
“This group gives you a time frame to pay $5,000 to those who bring them to the states,” Harvey wrote in an email.
A school administrator said the student needed “urgent support” to raise another $2,000 by Feb. 1.
A school representative confirmed to NewsNation that the email had been delivered to staff and the principal had taken steps to issue a retraction.
After calling the request “inappropriate,” the high school’s principal said all donated funds would be returned.
Some Rhode Island parents are outraged.
“The danger and violence of the Mexican cartel literally came to the desk of public school teachers and was sanctioned by their assistant principal and guidance counselor,” said Nicole Solas, a Rhode Island parent who also serves as a senior contributor to the Independent. Women’s forum.
Students NewsNation spoke with said they want answers.
“It wasn’t talked about at all today,” one student told NewsNation. “It came out like Friday. It wasn’t really talked about today. Especially with a group like that, that has ties to this school, it’s scary.”
On its website, Mount Pleasant High School’s mission statement says, “Mount Pleasant High School provides all students with a meaningful and purposeful education through a variety of opportunities to be connected and feel safe in their school community.”
Solas said school administrators should have notified police instead of asking for donations.
“This is a public school student who is at risk,” Solas said. “His family could be killed in the country he’s from if he doesn’t pay this money and instead of notifying the authorities immediately, we’re raising funds for a Mexican cartel.”
According to a United Nations report, people smuggling is a nearly $6 billion-a-year industry. It’s something Texas Sheriff Roy Boyd sees firsthand on a regular basis.
“What we’re dealing with in our area is the cartels that have come in — they’ve established through their operatives, they’ve set up hideouts — and they’re smuggling people through our communities,” said Boyd, who works in Goliad County.
The incident in Rhode Island is just the latest evidence that the southern border is in crisis over encounters with migrants jump to record heights.
Solas called the students’ situation “heartbreaking”.
“We want the best for everyone, but we can’t deny how hurtful this is,” she said.
NewsNation reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment, but the agency declined our request for an interview.