Latino Parents in a Primarily White and Relatively Affluent School District: The Story of Their Engagement in Their Children’s School

This qualitative study was undertaken to critically explore and explain the parent engagement of a group of immigrant Latina mothers at an elementary school located in a primarily White and relatively affluent school district in California, United States. The study examined the barriers that the group of Latina mothers encountered, along with the enabling factors available to them. Three research question guided the study: 1) How did one group of Latina immigrant mothers engage in a majority White and relatively affluent public school district, and how did they advocate for maintenance of a cultural event? 2) What barriers might inhibit Latino parent engagement in their children’s school? 3) What enabling factors might enhance Latino parent engagement in their children’s school? The study used Critical Race Theory as the theoretical framework. Data was collected through participant observation, interviews, document review, and field notes. A narrative inquiry method was used to chronologically narrate, as a series of events, the lived experiences of the group of immigrant Latina mothers. The study discovered a different situation than the deficit concept that Latino parents are not involved in their children’s school. The findings narrate a counterstory in that a group of Latina immigrant mothers, with the assistance of community advocates, was able to infiltrate the elementary school’s space of power and influence and effect change for the betterment of Latino parents, students, and the school in general. The group of Latina mothers was confronted with many barriers. Some of the specific obstacles that inhibited their engagement at their children’s school were: 1) systemic White privilege; 2) race, racism, and a lack of Latino power and influence in school decisions; 3) administrative disregard for the importance of culture, 4) a Latino parent engagement equity gap, 5) parent low socioeconomic status, 6) parent language barriers, and 7) low parental educational attainment. On the other hand, there were enabling factors that supported the Latina mothers’ engagement at their children’s school, including: 1) resilience and resistance to being silenced, 2) in-group and community support, and 3) the parent educational programs in the community and at school. These factors supported their arduous trajectory to resolve their concerns, with one of their main concerns being the re-instatement of a 42-year-old Cinco de Mayo event at an elementary school. The results of this study are significant because, as the Latino community continues to expand into new reaches of the United States, Latino parents could likely encounter similar situations in their new communities.

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