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OCA URGES JUSTICE FOR IOWA STUDENT IN ENGLISH PROFICIENCY CASE
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OCA URGES JUSTICE FOR IOWA STUDENT IN ENGLISH PROFICIENCY CASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
3 April 2009 

Sarah Smith | Communications Manager
202.223.5500 | ssmith@ocanational.org 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - OCA calls on the Storm Lake School District in Iowa to expunge the disciplinary actions placed on Lori Phanachone, an honors student born and raised in the United States, for refusing to take an English proficiency test mandated because she speaks Lao in her home. 

Phanachone, a second-generation Laotian American, was labeled an ELL after she declared that she spoke Lao primarily at home.  Due to this designation, the school district annually tested her English proficiency even though Phanachone is a member of the National Honor Society and ranks seventh in her senior class.  When she boycotted the test during her senior year, calling it demeaning and racist, she was suspended for 3 days and threatened with the loss of National Honor Society membership and exclusion from school activities. Phanachone said that her college scholarships—up to $86,000 at one university—have been threatened by her suspension.

"What the Storm Lake School District is doing to Ms. Phanachone is wrong,” said OCA Executive Director George Wu. "The fact that she has a 3.9 GPA and has excelled in her classes, including English, should speak for itself.”

OCA urges the Storm Lake School District to expunge any disciplinary actions in regards to Phanachone.  We also ask for the school district to review their policies and reclassify students such as Lori, especially from immigrant families, if appropriate, as English proficient.

Founded in 1973 as the Organization of Chinese Americans, OCA is a national organization with over 81 chapters and affiliates dedicated to advancing the social, political and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans. For more information, visit www.ocanational.org.
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