Federal civil rights officials are evaluating a complaint that Oceanside schools have discriminated against limited-English-speaking students in the dismantling of bilingual education.
The United Coalition for the Education of Our Children, a grass- roots parent group seeking continued Spanish-language instruction for its members’ children, filed the complaint earlier this month with the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
It alleges that Oceanside is failing to give limited-English- speaking students equal access to the subject matter covered in class by offering neither bilingual education nor appropriate “sheltered” English instruction geared toward English learners.
The Office for Civil Rights must determine whether the charges warrant investigation as possible violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Two San Francisco-based legal groups, Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy Inc. and California Rural Legal Assistance, filed the complaint on behalf of the parent coalition.
There are two central allegations among the 15 points in the four- page complaint:
* That limited-English-speakers do not have access to a program which would allow them to gain the English-language proficiency necessary to ensure their equal participation in schooling with native speakers. The contention is that non-English-speakers should have lessons specifically geared toward developing English proficiency so they can benefit from classes as much as their English-speaking peers.
* That limited-English-speakers are not getting an adequate grounding in academic English, proficiency in reading and writing as well as speaking. Without such proficiency, the complaint argues, students are unable to fully master their mathematics, science and reading lessons.
“I think we both want the same things — and that’s what’s best for kids,” Oceanside schools spokeswoman Cindy Sabato said in response to the allegations. “We just have different philosophies about what that is and how to provide it.”
About 22 percent of Oceanside’s 21,000 students are classified as limited-English-proficient. No student in the district receives more than a smattering of instruction in a language other than English.
Proposition 227, the voter-approved California initiative which mandated that teaching be done overwhelmingly in English, included a clause providing for the exemption of some children from English-only instruction. Oceanside has received 155 exemption requests and rejected all but five. No school has to provide bilingual education until it has granted 20 exemptions in one grade.
The parent coalition has picketed outside Oceanside school board meetings to protest the rejection of exemptions that they say is tantamount to a loss of parental choice of educational programs.
Maria del Rocio Vasquez, a parent who attended a coalition press conference outside Oceanside City Hall to announce the complaint, said she wants her son to learn in English and Spanish.
“It’s an economic question, because he will have more success if he speaks two languages, no matter whether he works here or in another country,” Vasquez said in Spanish.
The complaint alleges that Oceanside has not provided enough qualified teachers or books to meet English learners’ unique needs and that it has not devised an appropriate way to monitor their progress.