Parent, former teacher files federal complaint after RPS loses track of 800 students who don’t speak English

Updated: Jul. 16, 2019 at 10:41 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond Public School teachers of students who don’t speak English as their primary language lined up in front of the school board Monday night to express frustration over a major lack of resources.

"My ESL students come to my classroom having experienced unimaginable hardships and trauma, yet they are expected to sit in classrooms of 40 plus students and take standardized tests in a language they don't understand," RPS ESL teacher Anne Forrester said.

Eight-hundred ESL or 'English as Second Language' students were not properly counted, leading to overwhelmed teachers and the district missing out on much-needed funding from the state.

"Since I started working in the division, there was always concerns from educators about the process of identifying students," Deanna Fierro, an RPS parent and former teacher in district, said.

Fierro taught in the district for seven years and says she witnessed teachers struggling to accommodate Spanish-speaking students with not enough funding or help.

"You want to give the students everything that should be given to them, but you come to a wall when you run out of resources," Fierro said.

Fierro filed a complaint with the federal Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education.

Just last month, DOJ officials announced they investigated Arlington's school district for similar problems in handling ESL students. Ultimately, the federal government is now helping guide Arlington schools in teaching Spanish-speaking kids. Fierro wants the same for Richmond.

“I don’t want to see more positions opened and not filled because there’s not that urgency. So, the complaint isn’t about trying to get somebody in trouble. It’s about making sure that there is follow through and there is accountability,” Fierro said.

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