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Lori Phanachone is a star student at Iowa's Storm Lake High School. She is a member of the National Honor Society with a 3.9 GPA and is ranked 7th in her senior class of 119. Apparently, though, her achievements are not an indicator of her competency in the English language, as she was recently suspended for three days for her refusal to take the "English Language Development Assessment." According to a written statement from the school officials last Wednesday, Lori could be facing expulsion if she maintains her refusal. Her scholarships at Buena Vista University and Iowa State are also in jeopardy.

The policy in itself is not very offensive; rather, it is the administrators' responses and that has been very racist. In efforts to ensure universal literacy in education, it makes sense to have a policy that require certain people to take literacy tests. However, the current way of determining test eligibility is flawed; although a flawless system is near-impossible, students such as Lori have absolutely no need to prove their English language competency. Perhaps a simple signed exemption form from a humanities/social science teacher would have ameliorated this whole situation.

Instead, school officials responded with an adamant attitude, and one that is very racist. In particular, the school district's curriculum coordinator, Lori Porsche, maintains that Phanachone must take the best because indicated on her school registration that English was not the first language spoken at home, unswayed by Phanachone's outstanding academic performance and more-than-obvious competency in English.

Another example, according to Phanachone: "Mr. Ruleaux (assistant principal Beau Ruleaux) told me I was 'no Rosa Parks' -- that I should give up because I would not succeed in my protest." Rather than try to fix the system, those still in favor of the test seek to make an example out of Lori's repeated refusal to conform to their system. The problem is that the officials have taken the policy as the absolute, and have neither considered the original intentions of the policy nor possibilities for reform.

There is disagreement among administrators in other Iowa school districts, and the situation has stirred up quite a controversy. AALDEF has taken on the case, and has asked supporters to hold off on formal protests/letters to the school officials for now. However, AAA PC (Political Committee) will be meeting this Sunday from 4:30-5:30pm in Lerner Board Room 503 to write letters of support to Lori Phanachone. Everyone is welcome!

For more information:
Sioux City Journal
The Register (Des Moines)
KTIV (Siouxland's News Channel)
Angry Asian Man

Having trouble getting reacquainted to the whole doing homework thing? Skip your work and come to AAA's Mochi Study Break tonight at 10pm on the Lerner ramps for some free food!

Oh, and heard about AAA's sex ed documentary? Come to tonight's study break to find out more. If you can't make it and are still curious, email Annie Tan at at2452@columbia.edu.

Coming back from spring break? Don't get too comfortable - 2009's Asian Pacific American Awareness Month (APAAM) starts this week!

The opening ceremony, with a keynote by Miriam Yeung and badass slam poet Bao Phi, is this Wednesday. Miriam Yeung is the executive director of NAPAWF, the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (omfgosh), and Bao Phi is the creative mind behind this, this and this.

We're putting all events in the sidebar, so please keep updated!


Remade in America is the New York Times' new "series about the newest immigrants and their impact on American institutions". Two parts have come out already - Part I: Schools, and Part II: Workplaces. There are some really weirdly uncomfortable articles, like "The Best Way to Teach Young Newcomers [English]", and then there are some interesting (but still problematic) things, like the interactive map showing how the "foreign-born" demographic has spread across the U.S., ca. 1880-2000.


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