it's official: lori phanachone is not an english language learner

Here's probably what is the final update in the saga of Lori Phanachone and the Storm Lake School District... Lori is the Lao American high school student who refused to take her school's required English-language assessment, calling it racist and demeaning.

Lori, who was born and raised in the United States, indicated that had indicated that English was not the primary language spoken at home, the school erroneously classfied her as an English Language Learner.

Under threat of suspension, expulsion and other penalties, Lori boycotted the exam, and received national attention (and big props from Asian Americans everywhere). The school ultimately agreed that she didn't have to take the exam.

In the aftermath of her standoff with Storm Lake, the district has created a comprehensive new ELL classification policy, which sets forth clear steps for identification and classification of ELL students as well as parental notice. Here's the press release from AALDEF:

New York, NY - Addressing criticism from the misclassification of Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) client Lori Phanachone as an English Language Learner (ELL), Storm Lake School District has created a comprehensive new ELL classification policy. Storm Lake will retroactively apply this new policy, which sets forth clear steps for identification and classification of ELL students as well as parental notice, to the approximately 1,000 ELLs currently enrolled in Storm Lake public schools.

Khin Mai Aung, the AALDEF staff attorney representing Ms. Phanachone, said: "We are heartened by Storm Lake's willingness to improve its ELL classification policy. Moving forward, we will monitor how Storm Lake applies this new policy to current students who - like Lori Phanachone - may have been misclassified as ELLs."

Storm Lake erroneously classified Ms. Phanachone, a Lao American student with a 3.98 GPA, as an ELL without assessing her actual English ability. This spring, the honors student protested Storm Lake's faulty classification by boycotting a yearly ELL test, resulting in a 3 day suspension, revocation of her National Honor Society membership and extracurricular privileges, as well as a threat of further discipline. After AALDEF's intervention, Storm Lake agreed to reclassify Ms. Phanachone as English proficient, lift all disciplinary consequences from her record, and restore her National Honors Society membership.

Lori Phanachone said: "I'm glad my taking a stand has led Storm Lake to improve its ELL classification policy. Now, other students who were misclassified under the old policy will have a chance to be reclassified as English proficient."
Like I've said before, this issue really struck a nerve with me, and I was so impressed with Lori's determination and conviction to see it through. To be honest, if it was me in the same situation, and I was back in high school, I'm not so sure I would've stuck to my guns. Can you see why I named Lori one of the 30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30?

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