Stop Student Discrimination in Loudoun County Public Schools

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We want the Loudoun County Public School Board to allow English Language Learner (ELL) Students who have not reached 22 years of age on or before August 1 of the school year to be allowed to complete their high-school education at their home school, just as in Fairfax County.

This can easily be accomplished by amending policies 8-12 and 8-13 to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by Virginia State Law.

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BACKGROUND

The photo above is Liliana Bran, a 19-year-old student at Broad Run High School, who works her second job pulling duties in the stock room at Chipotle Mexican Grill in Ashburn. (photo courtesy of: Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now)

Before the start of the 2017/2018 school year, an arbitrary decision was made to change the interpretation of enrollment policy to immediately revoke the promises made to Liliana and other students that were on a path to graduate from their home schools.

This change is forcing Liliana and her peers to make an almost impossible choice: to either complete their primary education via an alternative GED program - or continue to work a job they need to put food on the table.

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NO STUDENT SHOULD HAVE TO MAKE THAT CHOICE

You may think that 19 seems a little old for a high-school student, but it is not unusual for ELL students to need more time to fulfill their high school graduation requirements.

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to try to complete high school classes while simultaneously learning a new language - in addition to working multiple jobs to survive!

To help ensure the best possible outcomes for these students, Virginia Law (Code 22.1-5, D.) explicitly states that:

School boards may accept and provide programs for students for whom English is a second language who entered school in Virginia for the first time after reaching their twelfth birthday, and who have not reached 22 years of age on or before August 1 of the school year.

Fairfax County Public School's enrollment policy takes full advantage of Virginia Law to explicitly state that ELL students who are over age 22: "...may apply to complete their educational programs at their local high schools on a nontuition basis."

BUT - Loudoun County Public School's existing enrollment policy is far more restrictive than Virginia law allows - forcing out ELL students who are over the age of 20 if they need more than eight credits to earn their diploma.

There are only a few options available to students who are forced out of school, and the evidence shows that these alternative programs are NOT the answer:

  • High school graduates earn, on average, about $1,600 a month more than those with a GED (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012).
  • Less than 5% of those with a GED receive a bachelor’s degree, compared to the 33% of those with diplomas that do (U.S. Census Bureau).
  • 77% of GED holders do not continue past the first semester of college (American Council of Education study).
  • The military limits the number of accepted and requires higher scores on the aptitude test for GED holders because the military service dropout rates for GED holders is 45% compared to 24% for high school graduates.

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WHY IT MATTERS

Liliana's story is a familiar one.

It’s the story of my legal immigrant parents that were discriminated against as they were trying to become fluent English speakers while working multiple jobs to create a better future for their children.

It’s the story of your parents, grandparents, or other relatives not too far down your family’s tree.

It is not a happy story - but we have the chance to tell a better one in Loudoun.

As Cofounder and CEO of ProJet Aviation, I’ve seen first hand the valuable contributions of ELL workers. The health of our business community and our local economy depends on their efforts. ELL students who receive their high school diploma from their home school are better prepared to enter the workforce - and we are happy to have them join our team!

ProJet has taken the lead on creating educational opportunities for young students in our community since we moved our base to Leesburg Executive Airport in 2010. We have developed and sponsored the annual Aviation Education and Career Expo, which has provided over $240k in scholarships for Loudoun students alone. ProJet also sponsors job fairs, fundraisers, and other community events that create opportunities for all Loudoun youth – regardless of their color, gender, or English fluency.

The current interpretation of the high school enrollment policy sends a message to all Loudoun youth that it is ok to treat some students differently because they are less privileged than others. It tells the rest of the world that Loudoun is a place where discrimination is alive and well; where we are more restrictive than Virginia law to the detriment of our community.

THIS IS THE WRONG MESSAGE FOR OUR COUNTY'S FUTURE - BUT WE HAVE A CHANCE TO FIX IT.

PLEASE TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION to protect the future of these students and our community!

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Here's what you can do:

  1. Sign the petition below.
  2. Email the Loudoun County School Board to voice your concern at: lcsb@lcps.org
  3. Read more about Liliana and other ELL students in this article by Danielle Nadler - and please share the article and this petition with your friends who are Loudoun County residents!


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