Man Pays Tribute To 'Hero' Teacher He Helped 'Trick' Authorities Into Letting Migrant Kids Stay In School

Sometimes doing the right thing requires breaking a few rules.

TikToker talking about his teacher whole help migrant kids stay in school TikTok

No matter what side of the immigration issue you fall on, it's a simple fact that our country is dependent on migrant workers—without them, we'd have no food to eat, for starters, and when we threaten them with deportation, produce rots in the fields with no one to pick it.

Nevertheless, many migrant workers live in grinding poverty in often shocking conditions, with little to no workers' protections and the constant danger of losing their livelihood and homes. Caught up in this whirlwind are scores of children who have no say in the matter. 


One man on TikTok was recently reminded of an educator he grew up with who did everything he could to change that for three young migrant children in his school, even if it meant breaking the rules.

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A man recalled helping his elementary school principal 'trick' immigration officials to protect three migrant children.

A TikToker named Chris, known as @satanicpanicsurvivor on the app, whose account focuses on his fascination with "moral panics"—like America's heated, and often disinformation-filled, debates on immigration, shared a rare heartwarming tale about migrants being protected in the US. 




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The TikToker recalled three classmates at his school in Chicago who worked in fields in Texas for part of the year.

"They actually had migrant worker kids in my elementary school, Juan, Rosalinda, and Leticia," recalling that Leticia was his first kiss in third grade. The migrant kids "only went to our elementary school for part of the year, from the start of school into the late fall. Then they would leave their parents to go to Texas to work in the fields there, and then they would come back in the early spring until summer," he explained.

That is, of course, an astonishing situation for three small kids to be in—and presented no shortage of logistical issues where schooling was concerned.


But the TikToker's principal, Mr. Jerz, had it all figured out. When the kids would go to Texas to work, "Mr. Jerz would keep them enrolled in school, and then they would do their schoolwork through correspondence."

There's just one problem, of course—that's illegal. And after a while, it aroused suspicion.

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The principal asked Chris and two other students to pose as the migrant kids when immigration authorities came to search their school.

Chris recalled a day when the principal came and summoned him and his friend Jean to the office during their fourth-grade year. "There were some other teachers, and then my other friend Anita, who was from India, were in that room. And Mr. Jerz asked us, 'Do you know what civil disobedience is?'"


Chris noted that he and his two classmates had all just learned about the concept of civil disobedience while learning about Dr. Martin Luther King's activism the week prior.

"Mr. Jerz says, 'There's a reason you had that lesson last week because you're going to commit an act of civil disobedience," Chris recalled. "'Tomorrow, immigration is going to come to see if Juan, Leticia, and Rosalinda are really enrolled in the elementary school, and when they come and the homeroom teacher takes roll call, Chris, you're going to be Juan, Jean, you're going to be Rosalinda, and Anita, you're going to be Leticia."

Just in case the kids were scared, Mr. Jerz and the teachers had them practice responding to the roll call. That didn't help much with their nerves—"Jean and I were walking home talking about what we were going to do in federal prison," he joked.

The next day, he says, "Sure enough, immigration was at the front of the classroom." Mr. Jerz's scheme went off without a hitch, the immigration officials left, and the migrant children returned to school later that year.


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Chris said his principal's willingness to do whatever it took to protect the migrant kids 'changed my life.'

"So glad I had a school principal who saw an act of civil disobedience as education," Chris said. "That was the most important thing I've ever learned."

And people on TikTok gave an outpouring of tributes to Mr. Jerz. "What an honorable man and an even better educator," one person wrote. Another thought Hollywood should make a movie about him. Chris honored him further in a follow-up video.



He praised Mr. Jerz for giving the migrant children "the foundation they needed to grow up and be successful." But it wasn't just the migrant children who were impacted by Mr. Jerz—he changed Chris's life too.


In a second follow-up video, he went on to tell of how Mr. Jerz helped him deal with the bigotry he faced as a Black child adopted by a family who was part of what he called "an extremely racist" religious community.



"He made sure that this elementary school was my family," Chris said of Mr. Jerz. "And he made sure I was proud to be Black so that I would not internalize the racism of the community." Chris went on to say, "He was more than a principal, he's a hero."


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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.