Move to English blocked

EDUCATION: Orange schools can't proceed with plans for English-only instruction until a lawsuit is resolved.

The Orange Unified School District must abruptly suspend its transition to English-only instruction under a temporary restraining order issued Monday by a Sacramento County Superior Court judge.

Among the factors cited by Judge Ronald B.Robie in granting the order was the “likelihood of success” of the lawsuit filed by a group of Orange parents and Hispanic activists who want to see the district’s bilingual-instruction programs restored.

“We’re pleased, but very cautious,” said attorney Deborah Escobar, who co-authored the suit. “This is only temporary. “

The order was the latest development in the battle over bilingual education in Orange. Last month the district was granted a one-year waiver from bilingual requirements when the state Board of Education failed to act on the district’s request to institute English-only teaching.

Orange school officials began a switch to English-only instruction Aug. 1, which now must stop. A full hearing on the lawsuit may come as early as next month.

Neil McKinnon, assistant Orange superintendent, said the judge’s order puts the district in a bind because 28 of Orange’s 45 bilingual teachers have taken jobs elsewhere.

“All we can do is ask the remaining bilingual teachers we have to teach as they have before,” he said, adding that bilingual teaching aides will help fill the language gap when possible. “But this isn’t serving the kids well. “

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