To prevent non-English-speaking students from falling behind their peers or ending up in special education, the Granite School District is unveiling a plan today to bring itself into compliance with federal guidelines.

Granite, San Juan, Duchesne, Ogden, Jordan, Washington and Davis school districts have come under scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for not providing an adequate education for students whose first language is not English.

In a letter dated May 3 to the Office of Civil Rights, Granite School District Superintendent Loren Burton outlined the plan, effective September 1996 for the state’s largest district. The plan includes:

— Identifying all students with limited English proficiency.

— Locating their language skills and tailoring curricula for them.

— Increasing staff training for teaching these students.

— Hiring more bilingual educators.

— Instituting ongoing evaluations so the students will not get lost in the shuffle.

— Bridging the gap so that more non-English-speaking students will get involved in accelerated-learning programs.

“By June 1, 1995, the district will advise and inform parents and guardians of all students that the Office of Civil Rights conducted a review of the district’s program and services for limited English proficiency students,” writes Burton.

Granite is the latest Utah district to complete its action plan. Duchesne, Ogden and Jordan districts submitted their plans last year.

Lillian Gutierrez, director of the Office of Civil Rights in Denver, Colo., says the San Juan School District’s records have been retained by federal litigation for ongoing inequity litigation.

All districts except the Davis School District have been notified about what steps they need to fall into compliance.

The investigation began in 1991. It found that in the 1980s, $ 10 million had been spent in Utah to meet the needs of this growing student population. The influx of non-English-speaking students included Latino and American Indian groups, and Russian, Tongan, Samoan and Southeast Asian immigrants.

But when districts began diverting the funding to other areas, the programs dried up, leaving many students lost in the system.

Only since the districts have come under federal scrutiny have they funneled more money into bilingual education.

“The most difficult thing is to help them [bilingual students] to feel comfortable and at ease,” explains Dennis Manning, bilingual-education specialist for the Duchesne School District. “We don’t want to pressure them to speak English too soon.”

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