Petition Seeks to Change Graduation Policy for Immigrant Students

A local business leader has launched a petition at Change.org that urges Loudoun County school leaders to allow immigrant students up to age 22 to earn their diplomas.

This school year, Loudoun County Public Schools’ administrators more narrowly interpreted a policy that states that students who are 20 years or older may remain enrolled in high school tuition free if they are “reasonably close to completing graduation requirements,” keep good attendance and demonstrate a serious intent to graduate.

For years, school system administration gave waivers to students who needed another year to complete all of the required credits, especially for students who were still learning English. But this year, teachers and counselors were told they could only provide waivers to students beyond their 20th birthday if they had eight or fewer credits to complete before graduating. That is stricter than state law, which allows schools to enroll students for whom English isn’t their primary language if they entered school in Virginia for the first time after reaching their 12th birthday and who are 21 years old or younger. They are not eligible if they turned 22 years old on or before Aug. 1 of the school year.

The change meant dozens of high school students who thought they were on track to earn a diploma were kicked out of their home high schools.

See Loudoun Now’s coverage on the change here.

Shye Gilad, CEO of ProJet Aviation, launched a petition at Change.org this week to request that those students be given the time that state law allows to earn their diploma.

“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,” Gilad said.

He said he launched the petition, and is talking with school and community leaders about reversing the decision, because the stories of the impacted students are similar to his family’s and so many others’.

“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,” the petition states. “It is not a happy story—but we have the chance to tell a better one in Loudoun.”

Shye plans to present the petition to the School Board. The board’s Student Support and Services Committee is scheduled to review Policies 8-12 and 8-13, that oversee the graduation guidelines, at its next meeting at 8:30 a.m. March 22. The meeting is open to the public and will take place at the school administration building, 21000 Education Court in Ashburn.

Find the petition here.

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