Grand Jury Report Recommends Elimination of Bilingual Education

SAN DIEGO—A county grand jury has recommended eliminating bilingual education in schools, saying the practice is “impractical, expensive and, in a sense, un-American.”

But Hispanic leaders quickly termed the grand jury report “racist” and “bigoted.”

The grand jury report, issued Tuesday following an investigation into San Diego County schools, said, “Bilingual education promotes a type of cultural apartheid in that it encourages a dual society.

“Specifically, it rejects the ‘melting pot’ concept, which has been the basis of our country’s success over the past 200 years.”

In a bilingual program, students are taught a variety of subjects in their native language.

According to state law, if there is a certain percentage of students who speak one language, schools must provide bilingual instruction for those students. If the school district does not provide the bilingual education, it loses state funds.

In San Diego County, about 278,600 people, or 14.8 percent of the population, are of Hispanic origin, said Herman Baca, president of the Committee on Chicano Rights. Of those, 42 percent are under age 18, he said.

The report, presented to Superior Court Judge William Low, recommended that the county Board of Supervisors seek an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring English as the official language of the United States.

“I recognize some of the names on that grand jury. They are all extremely conservative, right-wing, reactionary,” said Jess Haro, president of the Chicano Federation, a Hispanic civil rights group.

“I try to treat them with some degree of respect. But it’s bigoted and racist and not indicative of a grand jury that’s open, objective and fair.”

Herman Baca of the Commission on Chicano Rightes said the grand jury’s recommendation to make English the official language would be illegal if applied to the Southwest.

“The grand jury’s conclusions, besides being racist, are a gross violation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo,” Baca said. In that Feb. 2, 1848 treaty, which ended a war between the United States and Mexico, the United States pledged to respect the language rights of the people in the area.

The grand jury also recommended that the superintendent of schools seek legislation eliminating the requirements for bilingual education, and that the county registrar of voters change laws that require multilingual ballots.

“Public funds are expended to promote and encourage ethnic institutions, which in turn delays the assimilation of young students into the American mainstream,” the report said. “Overall bilingual education does a disservice to the student and benefits only certain minority and political interests.”

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