Hispanic parents back suit

EDUCATION: They say their children need bilingual classes so they don't fall further behind.

GARDEN GROVE, CA—Lina Gonzalez went to Lampson Elementary School on Monday with one question for her children’s teachers: How can I keepthem from losing ground during summer vacation?

She spoke to the teachers in Spanish, the language of instruction in a year-round bilingual program that starts a monthlong break Wednesday.

Unless her son Robert Carlos, 6, and daughter Leslie, 7, continue learning in Spanish, Gonzalez said, they will lose more ground when classes resume in September.

“My children haven’t caught up yet,” said Gonzalez, a native of Mexico whose two children enrolled at Lampson in January. “It’s important that they have bilingual classes for the first two or three years to catch up. “

Gonzalez supports a lawsuit filed in Sacramento County Superior Court last week to prevent the Orange Unified School District, which includes Lampson, from adopting English-only instruction.

She knew nothing about the legal arguments, but she knew what she wanted for her children.

“Learning English is important, yes,” Gonzalez, who runs a water-purification business with her husband, explained in Spanish.

“But I don’t see how my children could make the transition (to
English) right now. It’s important that they understand what they’re taught in all subjects. ” Several Spanish-speaking Lampson parents who retrieved children after school Monday said they want their kids to learn English, but not English only.

Neftaly Ceballos, manager of a Winchell’s Donut House in Garden Grove, said he enrolled his son in an English-only class at Lampson, despite school officials’ recommendation that the boy study in Spanish, the family’s home language.

“Since he started here in kindergarten, I think it’s better to do it in English,” said Ceballos, whose son, Neftaly Jr., spoke no English before starting at Lampson last fall. “But if he came here in third or fourth grade, I think (Spanish) would be necessary. It wouldn’t be fair to force them all to speak English. ” Orange Unified officials plan to phase in English-only instruction over the next few months, providing after-hours assistance in Spanish for limited-English students.

Plaintiffs in the suit filed Friday include San Francisco-based Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy and Santa Rosa-based California Rural Legal Assistance.

Two Jordan Elementary School parents named asplaintiffs _ Maria Quiroz and Alicia Constantino _ will tell their stories at a news conference scheduled today at Orange City Hall.

“The significance of the lawsuit is to bring to the attention of the Orange Unified School District and the State Board of Education that parents were feeling they weren’t heard and they had no other choice but to take legal action,” said Celso Rodriguez, bilingual coordinator at Jordan. “This is the only way to have their voice be heard. “

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