Hispanics react to charges of DPS 'bias'

Spanish speaking pupils failing, agency maintains

Latino parents and students differed Friday over whether Denver Public Schools is failing Spanish-speaking students.

The U.S. Department of Education said more than 13,000 students in DPS continue to speak little or no English.

The education department wrote a stinging letter to Superintendent Irv Moskowitz telling DPS that it has discriminated against Spanish-speaking children and other immigrant youngsters by not giving them the resources and qualified teachers to learn.

Joe Moran, 11, said he has attended many classes with Spanish-speaking children and has helped translate for them. Moran said both teachers and students are to blame if there’s any academic failure.

”A lot of teachers don’t know the Hispanic (students) and they don’t know how to speak Spanish,” said Moran who attends Gove Middle School. ”They just can’t communicate together. I know it’s tough for the teachers,

Agripina Casillas’ two children, ages 8 and 6, are Spanish-speaking and they each already have failed a grade. They are in bilingual education and Casillas said she’s not sure why they have fallen behind.

Casillas said she would prefer bilingual instruction because otherwise her children who are beginning to learn English wouldn’t understand what their teachers are saying.

”I don’t know if it’s the teachers or whether they’re just having trouble learning,” Casillas said.

Maria Rivera said bilingual classes helped one of her children, but hurt another’s education. One of her sons grew up in DPS learning very little English while her daughter became bilingual.

”But there are some families who don’t want to learn English,” Rivera said in Spanish. ”We’re in this country and you have to learn the language.”

Rivera’s granddaughter, Erika Serna, 6, has become bilingual. Most of her classmates are English-speaking.

”I’d rather have classes in English,” Erika said.

Parent Manuel Martinez, who speaks only English, hears a lot of Spanish spoken at the schools his children, ages 9, 7 and 5, attend.

”Every time I’ve gone to pick up my kids I haven’t heard a single English word in every one of those classes,” Martinez said.

Martinez said he believes DPS needs to instruct Spanish-speaking children English at the earliest age.

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