Teen fights English-only rule
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 25, 2003 12:00 AM
2 sides discuss Spanish at EVIT
The East Valley Institute of Technology opened informal mediation with a
Hispanic student Monday in the wake of a federal discrimination complaint
alleging that students were prohibited from speaking Spanish in the classroom.
It was a reaction to a series of minor communication breakdowns that have
escalated to Babylonian proportions, leaving the tech school questioning its
classroom rules and a group of cosmetology students defending their right to
speak their native tongue.
"The issue here is communication. That is very, very clear," said Raul
Cárdenas, the former Maricopa Community Colleges chancellor who mediated the
90-minute session. "We need to look at that."
The meeting included 15 people from local Hispanic activist groups, school
officials and the family of Patricia Otero, a 16-year-old Mesa High School
The Arizona League of United Latin American Citizens filed a complaint on her
behalf on Nov. 6 in the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
Although Cárdenas translated for the Spanish-speaking family, no qualified
interpreter was provided, highlighting a communication problem EVIT is working
to solve. Last month, EVIT officials told several cosmetology students,
including Otero, that they must refrain from using Spanish during class.
The group will now work to re-evaluate classroom rules, said EVIT
superintendent/CEO Sally Downey.