Ben Plyler, Ph.D., is a Teaching Fellow at Lander University in North Carolina
Education remains at the core of undocumented students’ sense of community and citizenship; yet limited resources, school structures that prioritise certain students over others, and approaches to civic education limit its potential to fulfill Plyler’s promise.
Plyler v. Doe was an important Supreme Court ruling from 1982 which held that states cannot deny free public education to children based on immigration status, yet has come under sustained assault from well-funded anti-immigration groups.
Early Life and Education
Ben has earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from SUNY Cortland. For his Master’s, Ben attended Nova Southeastern University’s BrainSMART program in Ft. Lauderdale. Currently teaching Social Studies with Virtual Iredell Statesville Schools of North Carolina he enjoys challenging his students to think critically while providing historical context for everyday experiences.
Plyler established that a state cannot deny children education on account of their immigration status. As part of that ruling, literacy was implicitly identified as an acceptable minimum standard. Unfortunately, numerous well-funded anti-immigration groups continue to attempt to overturn Plyler as part of a campaign against undocumented immigrants’ access to public schooling – but Plyler stands up strong legally against such efforts.
Ben has been teaching social studies at West Iredell High School and Virtual Iredell Statesville Schools since 2004. His passion lies with creating historical context for his students’ lives through classroom discussions and interaction.
ROAR, the management company for Zac Brown Band, employs Plyler as their representative at every show they perform, demanding meticulous attention to detail, calm under pressure and an endless resourcefulness from him. Plyler graduated from College of Charleston’s business administration and hospitality and tourism management programs.
Achievement and Honors
The university presented several awards to students. These awards included: Transfer Student of the Year award – given to a senior who transferred from a community college or four-year institution and excelled academically, extracurricularly and contributed significantly towards bettering Lander campus; Hall of Leaders award given to seniors who have made significant contributions towards bettering university.
Professor Heinz Stefan was awarded with the American Society of Civil Engineering’s (ASCE) Distinguished Member honor in recognition of his pioneering work bridging environmental concerns with hydraulics. Only 700 ASCE Distinguished Members have ever received this distinction since its creation. Additionally, CSE students Anna Burneske (industrial and systems engineering [junior]), Amanda Dahl (biomedical engineering), Alyssa McKenna (materials science graduate student), Jackson Baril (chemical engineering), and Luis Torrealba (chemical engineering) received Tony Diggs Excellence Awards for their contributions to student life.
Ben Plyler enjoys spending his free time with his family. In order to remain healthy, he dedicates himself to running and playing soccer regularly as well as reading avidly and cooking delicious meals for them all. Ben considers himself a lifelong learner who strives to develop more effective teaching and learning methods.
Plyler remains an essential constitutional principle, yet has come under attack from immigration restrictionists who have extensive funds. Conservative justices today appear less bound by precedent and more willing than in the past to revisit and overturn legal questions such as Citizens United – overturning restrictions on corporate political donations – should they gain control of the Court. It could put Plyler and other key decisions at risk and many observers feel strongly that our next President appoint justices who respect both law and history of our nation.