MODESTO, CA – California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA) have filed a lawsuit in Stanislaus Superior Court in Modesto, CA asking the Court to order the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District (NCLUSD) to immediately reinstate the dual language instruction program mandated by state law under Proposition 227. State and federal law requires that dual language programs be available for children for whom an English only setting is not the best placement.
CRLA represents a local parent, Esmeralda C., who brought this lawsuit on behalf of her 6 year old child Lucy.
When they started school in August of 2010, Lucy and approximately 80 first and second grade children were enrolled in the dual language or bilingual (BLP) program at Hunt and Von Renner Elementary schools. This “alternative” program was designed to provide instruction in Spanish and increasing amounts of English so that children learn English at the same time they are learning core subjects in a language they understand.
After several months of successful participation in the program, Lucy, and other children, reported to school after the Christmas break to find that they were in an English-only language classroom. Spanish language wall decorations had been stripped off the walls, Spanish textbooks were stacked away and children were provided with photocopies of assignments in English because there were not enough English textbooks to go around.
Parents protested, but the District has not been responsive.
“Our experts tell us that an abrupt change in program such as this is like making a child change schools mid-year,” said Cynthia Rice, attorney at CRLA. “It is disruptive, children become confused and they lose some of the content and learning skills they have already acquired.”
On February 23, 2011, CRLA sent a demand letter on behalf of parents, giving the District the opportunity to avoid a lawsuit by reinstating the program. The District responded by letter dated March 4, 2011, saying that the issue would be discussed by the Board of Trustees to be held on March 14, 2011.
“We have been given no assurance that the District will deal promptly with this denial of education services to these children,” said Andrea DeTellis, CRLA attorney for Esmeralda C. “Therefore we are filing today with the hopes that the District will decide to follow the law on Monday and immediately reinstate the program. If the Board of Trustees does not we will seek an order from the court next week directing them to do so.”
The District adopted the BLP program after Proposition 227 was passed; the BLP program has also been included in the District’s Master Plan for education.
The District has claimed that proper procedures were not followed when the first and second graders were enrolled in these classrooms in August. However, each child enrolled in the BLP program is there as a result of a parent exercising his or her choice under Proposition 227, and any errors, if any, were caused by the District not the children or their parents.
“We have seen no evidence that claims of improper procedures are true. And even if there were problems, our laws do not allow schools to visit the sins of the administrators upon the children, particularly when it comes to ensuring the right to education guaranteed by the California constitution.” added Ms. Rice.
The decision about whether to seek a temporary restraining order will be made on Tuesday March 15 after hearing the decision of the Board.