A school bus takes students home in rural New Mexico. Image: Marjorie Childress/New Mexico In Depth
New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez wants the Legislature to make explicit his power to investigate possible civil rights violations in New Mexico, with a focus first on children, including racial disparities in school discipline and problems at the state’s troubled child welfare department. Torrez cited recent reports of a “pattern of disparate penalties or discipline meted out to various groups, particularly Native American students,” as well as “some very serious issues” at the state Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) to explain why he has urged the Legislature to create a civil rights division within the Attorney General’s office.
“We need to get directly involved in protecting the civil rights of our citizens,” Torrez said in a February interview with New Mexico In Depth. “Our first priority will be looking at children.”
New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica reported in December that Native American students are expelled from New Mexico’s public schools far more frequently than other student groups, in large part due to practices at the Gallup-McKinley County Schools district. Gallup-McKinley, which enrolls more Native students than any other public school district in the country, has expelled children at least 10 times as often as the rest of the state in recent years.