The County Chronicle

The online newspaper for Loudoun County High School

The County Chronicle

The County Chronicle

Mistreatment of English learning students in our school must stop

A young student walks into the hallways from the front office and has absolutely no idea what to do in this new country and environment. Thankfully an employee speaking their native language of Spanish helps direct them to their new class. Walking into an algebra class where neither the teacher nor any other student in the class speak Spanish, they know they are in for a long ride in this new world. 

“In the beginning I did not feel okay here because so many things were scary and different” they said, in an interview I translated from Spanish. “No one talked to me except teachers trying to encourage me to speak, but I was so afraid.” This is a natural reaction of anyone trying to live in a foreign country, but the lack of inclusivity and understanding from our students and school community to make others feel this way is extremely disheartening. 

In recent years and in years prior, students new to the country and who are still learning the English language are welcomed in our school and put into classes to practice communication skills as well as all content in core subjects. We refer to them as EL (English learners) students because of their main focus to build on their English vocabulary. 

Even considering only the things that they are learning, for native speakers and students in selected placement classes, life at this age is extremely difficult, let alone being in school and not even knowing the common language. Students already have so many personal things to deal with and being so unfamiliar with the world around them would seem to be a daunting task and make every aspect about growing up much harder. 

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The act of putting ourselves in others’ shoes seems to be lost in our school community

Day in and day out in our hallways, myself and many others can hear the horrendous things said to these practically defenseless students. Whether it be curse words screamed at them in their native language, or demeaning questions asked to them knowing that they will not understand, there is a raging issue of complete disregard for the difficulties these kids are already experiencing as well as flatout racism. EL students are being targeted solely because they cannot understand what is being said to them and are thought of as “lesser” students. Also the act of other students trying to “communicate” with them is just another way to make fun of them for not being fluent in English and reflects extreme disrespect.

I and others have witnessed not only EL students being left out but also picked on, insulted in English and in Spanish by American students, and joked about behind their backs. The worst part about this is that there is seemingly no repercussions for the students inflicting this fear. Students like me as well as some teachers who have also witnessed this have spoken up about the issue and tried to make a change in our building, but we are met with seemingly closed ears. 

Of course, evidence is needed for these types of claims, but if we cannot obtain it in the moment and if the EL students themselves are not confident enough and too afraid to speak up about it, how much left do we have to do to make people believe us? The main issue about first hand accounts of this by EL students is the fact that they all know what will happen: nothing. They know that American students seem to have more of a pull with adults in charge and will most likely negate any claims put against them, and that they will not be heard. 

The public, and internally in our school, we all are aware of what is going on with these students. Ask anyone who frequently walks around our hallways, and they can all give you at least one instance of this mistreatment happening right in front of everybody. It is so common because the students doing it expect nothing to come from it. What they don’t realize is what is going on inside of that student’s head from that point on: fear, sadness, loneliness, and lowering self esteem. This issue can be fixed solely by empowering EL students to stand up for themselves as well as letting our entire school know that this behavior is being monitored and not forgotten. Actions have consequences, and it is time to end this bigotry.

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About the Contributor
Brianna Martinez
Brianna Martinez, staff writer
Brianna Martinez is in her senior year at County. This is her second year on the newspaper staff and she plans to major in Journalism in college.

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