Anti-bilingual lawsuit having opposite effect

A lawsuit intended to throw out bilingual programs in Albuquerque has thus far had the effect of making the programs stronger.

Bilingual teaching programs will be reviewed and strengthened under a settlement agreement reached between Albuquerque Public Schools attorneys and community groups who felt the programs were inadequate and discriminatory.

The settlement resulted from third-party intervention by the community groups in a lawsuit against the school district that sought to eliminate bilingual programs altogether. The community groups, by intervening, sought to strengthen, not eliminate, the programs. In reaching the agreement APS said the district was seeking release of claims by the interveners in order to avoid the time and expense of continued litigation.

Although the original lawsuit is still active, the interveners have now withdrawn as a result of the agreement.

A copy of the settlement, filed June 18, was provided to The Tribune by an attorney for the school district.

The district must attempt many steps to improve the programs, according to the settlement. They include better recruitment and pay for bilingual teachers, and stricter monitoring of their performances; better placement, tracking and testing of bilingual students; and a thorough survey of parents and students involved.

About 24,000 APS students take bilingual classes offered in roughly half of the district’s 121 schools.

The original suit was filed in March 1998. In May of this year, U.S. District Judge Martha Vasquez threw out many of the claims in the lawsuit, brought by several students who claimed the bilingual programs discriminated against them. Among the claims rejected was one that sought to declare the bilingual programs in violation of the state constitution.

The suit is funded, in part, by the Center for Equal Opportunity, a Washington, D.C.-based group that seeks to eliminate bilingual programs nationwide.

The plaintiffs are appealing the judge’s rulings, an APS attorney said.

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