TUSD administrators deny that their schools base admissions to bilingual programs on students? Spanish surnames.

Some district parents said they?ve heard rumors that students are put into bilingual classes solely based on that criterion.

“The decision to put a student in (a) bilingual program is based on test scores,” said Leonard Basurto, the district?s director of bilingual education and Hispanic studies. “The determination is based solely on their English proficiency.

We, as educators, determine the needs of the students. It is not done (based) on Spanish surnames. We have a very, very specific policy in TUSD.”

All principals, counselors and teachers are trained on how to decide who goes into bilingual programs, he said.

District officials are prompted to test a child according to a parent?s answer in Spanish to one of three questions on school registration forms.

“The questions do not determine placement. They only determine if students are taking the test,” Basurto said.

“Once we test them, if the students score below the standard, then they are enrolled” in bilingual programs.

Parents are also asked to answer “yes” or “no” to: “If bilingual and/or English as a second language instruction is recommended, I want my son/daughter to participate.”

However, even if a parent answers “no” to the question, and the child is determined suitable for bilingual education, a school still places him in bilingual classes.

If the parent is still dissatisfied, he must write a letter requesting the child be removed from the classes and set up a conference with district officials.

It?s a three-part process that Basurto defends.

“I think it?s really an attempt to protect students? rights to an equal learning opportunity,” he explained.

“My experience is that parents thank me. They seem to be appreciative that we take these precautions.”

Lorraine Aguilar, a member of the Independent Citizens? Committee, which deals with district issues, said she sympathized with parents questioning placement.

“The district?s doors are open, but it?s really hard to change all the cultural problems,” she said.

Aguilar said she would like the citizen committee to take a role “where parents came to us” with complaints or problems.

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