Hispanic group files complaint
SCOTTSDALE - A civil rights organization has filed a complaint against the Scottsdale Unified School District over a teacher who allegedly hit students for speaking Spanish in class.
The Arizona chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, is asking the U.S. Office of Civil Rights in Denver to investigate the state's eighth-largest school district.
"We see a lot of things wrong from a civil rights standpoint," said Silverio Garcia Jr., the group's education chairman.
The Scottsdale School Board on Jan. 15 started the process to fire Ingleside teacher Kim Youngblood after a school district investigation said she hit and slapped students for speaking Spanish in class. She has been on leave from her job since the incident was reported in April 2003.
Youngblood told district investigators that she was enforcing the district's English immersion program and did not intend to injure the children. She described the physical contact as "a gentle touch on the shoulders or a tap on the wrist."
LULAC is asking for a district investigation to see if other students were prohibited from speaking their native language. Silverio said the group wants Ingleside Middle School Principal Ruben Lara, who is Hispanic, removed and meetings held for Spanish-speaking parents.
Garcia on Thursday pointed to a police report that has testimony from a school staff member saying she witnessed Youngblood slapping students weeks before school officials began investigating in April 2003. The incident should have been reported to school officials immediately, he said. Garcia also objects to the district waiting until January to make the incident public - nine months after it occurred.
District Spokesman Tom Herrmann said Ingleside's principal acted "quickly and appropriately when the kids came forward and told him there was improper conduct in the classroom." The principal removed Youngblood from the classroom shortly thereafter, and she has not taught in a Scottsdale classroom since, he said. District officials said that a parent first complained April 22, and the principal immediately began interviewing students. He met with Youngblood April 24 and placed her on leave the next day.
Herrmann said the incident wasn't made public because it was a personnel matter.