The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has asked a federal agency to investigate whether the Houston Independent School District’s new bilingual education policy discriminates against language-minority students.

MALDEF, acting on behalf of the Houston Immigration and Refugee Coalition, filed a complaint this week with the U.S. Department of Education’s office of civil rights.

HISD trustees on July 22 adopted a policy that emphasizes “the ability to read, write and speak English as rapidly as possible.”

MALDEF attorney Cynthia Cano particularly questioned a provision that requires schools to move students into English classes as soon as they demonstrate proficiency in reading English.

A federal mandate requires HISD to keep students in bilingual classes until they demonstrate proficiency in English reading, writing, speaking and comprehension, she said.

“While the board may legitimately determine the kind of program HISD will offer,” Cano said in a letter, “the board may not disregard federal and state law.”

State Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Galena Park, state Reps. Rick Noriega and Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, and other area legislators are supporting the complaint.

“Clearly, the policy states that we are going to stay within all state and federal guidelines,” HISD trustee Gabriel Vasquez said. “And clearly, the policy states that the children will learn to read, write and speak in English.”

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