State Board Backs Orange Unified In Bilingual Battle

Education: Vote comes on heels of judge's order to block district's new English-immersion program.

California’s top education policy board voted Wednesday to give “vigorous support” to Orange Unified School District in its legal defense of a new English-immersion teaching program for students who speak other languages.

The vote by the State Board of Education came two days after a Sacramento County judge moved to block the district’s program temporarily. Eight of 11 board members voted for the statement of support, two abstained, and one was absent.

The state board’s action amounted to its strongest vote of confidence to date for Orange Unified in the school district’s campaign to scrap bilingual education.

Orange educators, arguing that bilingual education has been a failure, had begun a one-year trial on Aug. 1 of the English-based method. They were able to proceed because the state board, in two meetings in June and July, had taken no action to stop them.

But a coalition of Latino parents and advocates filed a lawsuit last month to stop the district, alleging that the rights of Spanish-speaking families had been trampled by the decision to stop teaching children in their native tongue.

In granting a temporary restraining order Monday, Judge Ronald R. Robie of Sacramento County Superior Court agreed that the plaintiffs had raised “significant questions” about potential violation of rights.

Celia Ruiz, a San Francisco attorney for Orange Unified, said Wednesday’s action “is a way of letting the judge know that eight board members are in strong support of the district’s alternative program and that it should be allowed to proceed.”

But Peter D. Roos, a San Francisco attorney for the plaintiffs, said a show of support by the state board would be of little help to the school district.

The state board and Delaine Eastin, state superintendent of public instruction, are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit along with Orange officials.

The state board, meeting in closed session Wednesday, also took action to seek special representation from the state attorney general’s office.

No court date has been scheduled in the lawsuit.

The school district serves about 29,000 students in Orange, Villa Park and parts of Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove. Of those, about 1,500 primary-grade students had received native-language instruction from the district in years past.



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