ORANGE, CA—The school board, over the objections of about 200 parents, voted 7-0 Thursday night to push forward with its plan to dismantle the district’s bilingual-education program.
“Why is it that we need to give special instruction to Hispanic students? ” board member Robert Vivano asked. “Are they less able? I think not. “
Parents, most of them Spanish-speaking, began gathering at 5 p.m. near the Taco Bell on Grand Avenue in Santa Ana, waiting for a bus to give them a free ride to the Orange Unified School District office on Handy Street.
By 6 p.m. _ three hours before the vote _ parents and students had gathered at the meeting in a rolling protest that seemed to be as much about bilingual education as it was about asserting rights.
“Every parent has the right to choose for their child no matter their last name,” said Celso Rodriguez, a bilingual research teacher.
Carrying placards reading “No Waiver” and “We Want Options,” parents circled an adjacent park. They had been asked not to protest on district property, Rodriguez said.
But like on other nights, board members stuck firm to their position.
Among the speakers were several high school students who credited bilingual education for their success.
“The bilingual-education system works,” Zaida Barrera, 18, an Orange High School student, said in English. “It workedfor me and six members of my family. “
Other speakers chided board members for not taking parents’ views into account.
One speaker expressed opposition to bilingual education.
“This is America,” said James Roger Snell, who noted that his school-age daughter feels left out because she can’t speak Spanish.
“I was taught in English. “
Parents were not surprised at the board’s unanimous decision and vowed to keep fighting.
“Seven people will not decide the future of our kids,” said Maria Quiroz, a parent of children at Jordan Elementary. “If we need to go to Sacramento, we will. “
The issue began in January when several board members proposed moving the district toward English instruction in all its classes.
Supporters said the plan would move students faster into English fluency. Some parents feared that it would erode their children’s native language.
State and federal guidelines say children who speak no English should be taught part of the school day in their native language so they get equal access to the curriculum.
But districts can request waivers to those rules.
Thursday, the Orange board agreed to apply for a state waiver that would allow mostly English to be spoken in the classrooms.