Richmond, Va.—The Richmond Chapter of Virginia Organizing has released a “Student/Parent Bill of Rights” to guide students, parents, and other caregivers as they navigate challenges they may face in public schools in the Richmond region. The simple, two-page document addresses such issues as:
- the right to a free, public education for all children;
- issues of discrimination by race or ethnicity, gender, national origin, or skin color;
- instruction for English language learners;
- freedom of religious expression;
- the right to opt out of standardized testing and certain instructional topics;
- and the rights of children with special needs, or disabilities, or those facing disciplinary hearings.
The Bill of Rights is now available on the Virginia Organizing website, at tinyurl.com/Rights20, and also as a print document. A more detailed version, with legal citations based on U.S. and Virginia laws is also available on the website. The Bill of Rights is currently available in English and Spanish, and will soon be translated into French, Arabic, and Mixteco: the languages most widely spoken in our schools.
For Melissa Siddiqi, a Chesterfield County mom and local Virginia Organizing leader who helped create the document, the Bill of Rights represents a much-needed step in the right direction for local schools.
“In May of 2020, a U.S. Department of Education investigation found that Virginia is not meeting its requirements to find out if a local school district did not comply with the IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Act],” Siddiqi said, “even when the state was given ‘credible information about potential noncompliance.’ As a parent of two children with special needs and disabilities, this is a difficult reality we’ve been living with for years. This Bill of Rights is the first step in the direction of transparency and justice for our young people.”
Virginia Organizing began compiling the Bill of Rights in response to questions and concerns expressed by both students and parents—especially Latino and African-American families—during listening sessions held in late 2019 and early 2020. After the document was drafted, it was carefully reviewed and edited by a committee of parents, students, and educators. The Legal Aid Justice Center also consulted on the final draft.
The Richmond Chapter of Virginia Organizing plans to disseminate the Bill of Rights widely among local schools and school divisions and hopes it will prove useful to students and parents throughout the Commonwealth. Chapter members will encourage Richmond, Henrico, and Chesterfield school boards and superintendents, as well as PTAs and student groups, to make the document available in their localities.
To interview a spokesperson, please contact Addie Alexander at 434-249-4058 or Addie@virginia-organizing.org.