Emotions flare at Richmond School Board meeting - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Emotions flare at Richmond School Board meeting

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Emotions flared at the Richmond School Board meeting, Monday evening. Latino students and parents blasted Richmond Public Schools for what they're calling unfair treatment.

Hispanic families, along with other concerned protesters, rallied outside the Richmond City Hall, before the board meeting. Protesters claim some Latino students at Huguenot High School were unfairly targeted. These students say they were called into the cafeteria, where administrators searched their personal items.

School administrators say they learned of possible violence brewing, involving Hispanic students. Officials say it was other Hispanic students who came forward with the information. Administrators say they took precautions, although they are looking into possibly improving the communication to parents about what took place.

Regardless, the scenario has led to an avalanche of reaction. Latino protestors waved signs against discrimination. Inside the meeting, a line of students and parents made their voices heard.

One Huguenot High School student says she was part of a group that had its belongings searched.

"I'm a straight "A, B" student. I shouldn't have to be going through things like that. I go home every day and study because I have to...because my parents aren't legal here. Because if I don't do it for myself...no one will do it for me," said Zulma Villatoro.

Other speakers pushed for better resources for Spanish speaking students and families, like bilingual teachers and translators.

One woman began her comments in Spanish.

"Is there something wrong?" she questioned, ro an obviously puzzled auditorium. "This is what happens with the families that are here...This is not communication."

The interim superintendent, Dr. Jonathan Lewis, made it clear to the crowd that he wants to hear more from students, and was deeply concerned by the allegations. Lewis said he wishes for all students to feel valued and welcomed at school.

The Richmond School District is also forming a multi-cultural task force to help meet the needs of all students and their families.

The ralliers hired a lawyer to investigate the actions of the school, and also the racial effects of the board's latest rezoning plan. Some continue to claim that it would cause segregation among schools.       

There were other significant issues out of the board meeting.

Members agreed to explore the idea of year-round school, by applying for a state grant to hash out the idea. The board also discussed moving to a 10-point grading system, to match surrounding school districts like Chesterfield and Henrico. Some council members say this would put Richmond students on an even playing-field as per GPA and college applications. School uniforms were another possibility brought up.

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