New civil-rights complaint against PV schools
NORTHEAST VALLEY - For the second time this month, the Paradise Valley Unified School District is facing a civil rights complaint.
The League of United Latin American Citizens, a civil rights group, is concerned that Hispanics in the state's third-largest school district are being segregated, that the school district isn't complying with guidelines from a 2001 civil rights complaint, and that some Hispanic employees are facing retaliation.
"There are too many complaints in all areas for (Paradise Valley) leaders to tell me they're connected with the community," said Silverio Garcia, who filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
But school officials insist they've been proactive, not reactive, said Judy DeWalt, the district's spokeswoman. She said they're complying with state and federal laws and have tried meeting with Garcia, but have been rebuffed.
"We would not let something like this slide, any of these things," DeWalt said. "Our record is good . . . when the original (civil rights) complaint was filed . . . we asked them to come in, and we said 'We want your help.' We are open and we will remain that way."
LULAC began paying close attention to Paradise Valley after it heard concerns about how the district made a last-minute decision to change requirements to a popular dual-language program at Palomino Elementary School. It also heard complaints about how the district treated Hispanic parents at board meetings.
The organization has intervened on behalf of Hispanics in Buckeye and Littleton Elementary School Districts.
Garcia's 14-page complaint alleges the Paradise Valley district is:
• disconnected from the Hispanic community;
• ignoring the academic failures of Hispanic students;
• not hiring enough Hispanic-certified employees;
• not complying with special-education laws for students with limited English skills:
• failing to use federal funds properly;
• and lacking proper translation and interpretation.
Garcia's complaint also addresses some possible solutions. Garcia believes the school district would be in better shape if it adhered to guidelines established by the Arizona Department of Education and an agreement the district signed as a result of a 2001 civil rights complaint. He also believes an audit will ensure proper use of federal funds and that a local Hispanic parent council, which was recently formed, needs to be acknowledged.
"These parents have a hunger to learn and know and be informed, and for whatever reasons or excuses in the past they have not been informed and not been informed in a timely manner," Garcia said. "I feel there is some resistance somewhere in the Paradise Valley echelon for this not to occur."
The district is no stranger to civil rights complaints. Earlier this month Jose Luis Rodriguez, a guidance counselor at the district, filed a civil rights complaint alleging he is being retaliated against for being outspoken.
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