School counseling at issue

EDUCATION: The Orange district board also will consider doing away with bilingual education.

ORANGE, CA—Student counseling and bilingual education will come under attack from the school board tonight as members consider separate proposals to overhaul the programs.

One proposal would require students get their parents’ permission before they talk to counselors about personal problems affecting their academic work.

Board members also will consider spending $ 90,000 to hire lawyers and consultants to prepare a waiver of state rules requiring that non-English speakers be taught in their native language part of the time.

The board’s back-to-basics majority has repeatedlyspoken out against programs that they believe usurp parental or local school board authority.

Board member Bill Lewis said student counseling should be done after school. “It takes away from the class time, and the kids who are having trouble are being pulled out of class, they’ll be missing valuable class time. “

The counseling proposal, which affects “intern” counselors at 30 campuses, drew criticism that it could hamper efforts to help troubled students. The counselors, who are studying for master’s degrees, are associated with three clinics _ Mariposa Women’s Center, Straight Talk and Turning Point for Families.

PTA parents, counselors and the board’s three minority members have said the Student Assistance counseling program has helped children deal with drugs, tobacco and emotional adjustment questions faced by many high school students.

The 5-year-old program was briefly suspended in 1995 after a series of board debates over medical, dental and counseling services on school campuses.

Tonight’s proposal would limit referrals to intern counselors to problems that “affect functioning in the school setting. ” The proposal would require parental permission before any visit with an intern and forbid trainees from taking cases dealing with severe depression, medical intervention or homicidal tendencies.

John Napier, a counselor at Orange High School, said he believes that the proposal could undermine efforts to help students.

“You don’t want to be too restrictive,” he said. Napier said it’s hard to know whether cases deal with depression or families if the counselors have not spoken to students.

Some parents believe ending bilingual education will also hurt students.

“Changes you are proposing will be detrimental to our children’s future and, as concerned parents, we are not in agreement,” wrote members of the district’s bilingual advisory committee to board member Martin Jacobson in January.

“We feel that our children are being discriminated against. “

Orange has about 6,800 students classified as limited English proficient, a term used to describe children who don’t understand English well enough to follow along in class. About 1,000 of the students receiveinstruction in their native languages.

Board members want to change that. Only English would be studied in the classroom under the proposal unveiled in January.

Tonight, board members will consider spending money to get special permission from the state to do away with bilingual education and replace it with a new program, emphasizing English only.

Supporters of bilingual education distributed fliers asking like-minded parents to show up at tonight’s meeting to protest the board’s decision. But members say they won’t be stopped.

Jacobson denied the parents’ allegations that the board’s action is discriminatory.

“We’re preparing our students for a future in our society by speaking English,” he said. “There’s been no proof that bilingual education helps these students learn any better. “

He said he doesn’t know of any study that proves English-only instruction is a better alternative.

A massive, long-running study out of George Mason University suggests that students who are taught in their own languages do better in school over the long run. If the goal is to move students quickly into the mainstream, other studies favor English immersion.

Comments are closed.