No Ruling in Suit to Block Bilingual Education Waiver

Latino activist groups failed to win a court order Wednesday that would have immediately halted the Orange Unified School District’s plans to drop bilingual education.

The fight is far from over, although the school district on Friday will begin phasing in a new program to teach the 2,000 Spanish-speaking students in English, with the help of bilingual aides in the classroom.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Ronald B. Robie, who heard oral arguments, declined to issue the temporary restraining order sought by Latino parents and activists groups who sued the district Monday.

Instead, he asked the school district’s attorneys to file a brief in response to the lawsuit by Tuesday. The judge then will take the matter under submission, said Deborah Escobedo, an attorney with San Francisco-based Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy Inc., one of the plaintiffs.

Robie did not indicate when he would rule, she said.

Neither side declared victory or conceded defeat.

“He didn’t grant it and he didn’t deny it,” Escobedo said of the order. “He is being careful and giving the parties more of an opportunity to give documentation for their arguments.”

The district’s efforts to seek a waiver from state-mandated bilingual education have been an uphill battle for months. The largest district to seek such a waiver, Orange failed this month to win the six votes needed from the state Board of Education to permanently drop the program, but it did win a waiver for one year.

Orange schools Supt. Robert L. French said Wednesday that he is confident the district eventually will win, but that he is somewhat apprehensive.

“Of course I’m concerned that a judge might make a decision overruling the board of education,” he said. “We feel this is a superior program.”

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