Schools Labor Over Language
"At this point, when we get a new student at Hickman High School and we need to get them in classes, we're very limited on how we can place that student," said English Language Coordinator Judy Trujillo, who is not related to Emmanuel. "Where do they go? Well, sometimes they go into additional P.E. Or study hall classes."
In fact, Emmanuel Trujillo is taking two study hall classes and two gym classes, along with World History, Spanish 1 and English. Research shows it takes non-English speaking students an average of 5-7 years to learn the language in U.S. public schools. However, Trujillo doesn't have that long because he must graduate by his 21st birthday.
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits school districts from asking if students like Trujillo are legal or illegal immigrants. So, schools must take students until they're 21 years old, even if they don't plan to graduate.
Becky Hocks teaches Advanced English at Hickman for immigrant and international students, some of whom only want to graduate from high school and not go to college. That's another problem for the district, as some students learn only a little English before they leave school early, while others stay and graduate.
"When we get a new student at Hickman High School, and we need to get them in classes, we probably are not able to provide the classes they need to truly support their educational needs at this point," Hocks admitted.
The Columbia Public School District's limited English population more than doubled from 296 in 2000 to 625 this year. District officials admitted it's difficult for Trujillo and others like him to expand their English skills because Columbia public schools have 38 more immigrant students this year than last.