The federal government is investigating the Paradise Valley Unified School
District over allegations of discriminating against parents who do not speak
English and treating Hispanics differently at school board meetings.
The U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights began the investigation
after receiving complaints from Hispanic community members.
"These parents have basically been segregated by the school district," said
Silverio Garcia, a leader of the Arizona branch of the League of United Latin
American Citizens, a civil rights group.
The federal investigation could affect how Paradise Valley and other Arizona
school districts deal with parents who do not speak English.
In 2001, a complaint against Tucson Unified School District alleged that the
district did not provide adequate translation for parents.
Last year, the federal government began monitoring Tucson schools and
requiring district translations of documents ranging from report cards to
Tucson schools now must provide competent interpreters.
Paradise Valley school officials said they believe they do a good job of
helping non-English speaking parents by providing translators and translating
school documents in multiple languages.
Over the past decade, more federal civil rights complaints have been filed
against Paradise Valley than any other Valley school district.
The Paradise Valley district is subject to federal monitoring because of a
complaint filed in 2000 by Jose Luis Rodriguez, a guidance counselor at
Greenway Middle School, and the Arizona Hispanic Community Forum.
That complaint alleged that on the Stanford 9 achievement test, Hispanic
students scored at least 35 points below their peers in reading, writing and
In more recent complaints, Rodriguez maintains that all Spanish-speaking
parents still do not receive report cards in Spanish, and that translators
don't always provide accurate information.
Javier Cano, parent of a student at Palomino Elementary School, said that when
he goes to the district office, he often cannot find information in Spanish.
Days before school began last year, former Superintendent Tom Krebs decided to
change requirements for a dual language program at Palomino. Hispanic parents
Parents in the area have since joined forces with the League of United Latin
District spokeswoman Judy DeWalt said the need for translations has grown as
the district's Hispanic population grows. The district has responded by
offering translations in 10 languages ranging from Spanish to Farsi.
Hundreds of documents have been translated, including immunization letters,
information about book fairs and parent-teacher conference reminders.
Two Spanish translators attend board meetings and Spanish speaking parents are
given headsets to listen to the translators.
"The complaints are not only false, they're outrageously false," said Tom
Horne, Arizona's superintendent of public instruction. "I have no doubt that
(the Office of Civil Rights) will dismiss them."
Carlin Hertz, a spokesman for the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil
Rights, said, "Just because we have an investigation doesn't mean there is a
However, if a district is violating civil rights laws, districts typically
agree to resolve the issues. If districts fail to do so, their federal funding
can be cut.
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