APS Intimidating Students, He Says

A lawyer representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Albuquerque Public Schools says his clients are being intimidated for challenging the district’s bilingual programs.

On Thursday, Albuquerque attorney David Standridge asked a federal judge for a temporary restraining order to forbid APS teachers from discussing the lawsuit in front of his clients.

Standridge said at least two of the 14 student plaintiffs he is representing have been harassed by school officials for being involved with the suit.

In both cases, he said, teachers have discussed the lawsuit in bilingual classes while plaintiffs are present. Standridge said one plaintiff, seventh-grader George Doak, was hit by another student at Polk Middle School, presumably for seeking to end bilingual programs.

Standridge said the other plaintiff, Lizet Aranda, was criticized by a teacher at Highland High School in front of her classmates.

“The teacher asked her why she wants to learn only in English if she can’t even handle Spanish,” he said.

Standridge also wants the district to assign additional security, if necessary, to ensure the physical safety of his clients.

APS spokeswoman Jennifer Dunstan said she could not comment on the allegations Thursday.

“Our attorney has requested that I not speak on anything related to the bilingual lawsuit,” she said.

Earlier this year, 14 APS students filed a lawsuit alleging that bilingual programs — which APS uses to educate certain students in both English and Spanish — discriminate against Hispanics by slowing their ability to learn English.

Others, including Doak, said they were mistakenly placed in the program, even though they do not speak Spanish.

Standridge said he hopes a judge will rule on his request as soon as next week.

He said he expects APS attorneys to seek to defeat his motion on the grounds that it would infringe on the free speech rights of teachers.

“I recognize that First Amendment issues are involved here, but I think there has to be a balance,” he said. “And protecting young students from intimidation by their teachers is more important.”

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