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  1. #1
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    Jun 2006
    Oregon (pronounced "ore-ee-gun")

    OR: Parents say school misread son's ethnicity

    Parents say school misread son's ethnicity
    Language - A lawsuit claims Hillsboro educators placed the English-speaking boy in ESL solely because he is Latino
    Wednesday, October 17, 2007
    The Oregonian Staff

    For more than a year, a Latino boy who speaks only English sat in his classroom confused by what his Spanish-speaking classmates were saying and falling behind in his work.

    His mother complained to school officials, but they insisted he belonged in the English as a Second Language program. Complicating things, the boy was considered to be developmentally delayed.

    Now the family has sued the Hillsboro School District, accusing educators at Orenco Elementary School of putting Alek Villaraldo in the English as a Second Language program during kindergarten and a portion of first grade solely because he was Latino. In the family's federal lawsuit, his parents, Indhira and Rene Villaraldo, say they were never notified or asked for consent to place their son in the program.

    "Those were his first years of school, and they have gone down the drain," Indhira Villaraldo said, adding that parent-teacher meetings, homework and other notices gave no sure sign to them that the 5-year-old spent part of school time learning alongside Spanish speakers with limited English proficiency.

    National ESL experts say the federal- and state-regulated learning program contains checks and balances to keep misplacements from happening. But errors still occur, especially among children with disabilities because educators are not fully trained in distinguishing learning disabilities from limited English speaking skills.

    Nicole Kaufman, spokeswoman for the Hillsboro School District, said school educators could not comment on the lawsuit. The parties might enter mediation by late November, then possibly go to trial. The lawsuit seeks $700,000 in damages.

    The Villaraldos say they worry about their son's education, even though he is now in a mainstream classroom at the same school.

    "If that was the beginning, what can we expect later on?" the boy's mother said. "What if he doesn't catch up?"

    Placement is a process

    State and district officials say children are placed in the English as a Second Language program after a thorough process that includes annual assessments and parent participation.

    Page 2 of 3

    Everything begins with a home language survey. If a language besides English is present, the child is given an assessment test, said Gail Merrion, director of Hillsboro School District's ESL and Migrant Program.

    If the child has a disability, ESL educators and special education teachers work together to find the right fit for the student. Federal law requires that parents are notified and updated about the child's progress in ESL.

    "There is no reason to believe that a parent would not be aware of the child's placement," Merrion said.

    She said ethnicity and federal funding for ESL have nothing to do with a school's decision to place a child in the program.

    For the Villaraldos, the process did not work that way, Indhira Villaraldo said.

    The district's bilingual report lists Alek's primary language as Spanish, but Villaraldo said she indicated her son communicated in English.

    Alek protested to the school that he did not understand Spanish, and twice Villaraldo turned down telephone inquiries from ESL teacher Jeff Hazen about putting her son in the program, she said.

    "I never knew that he already had Alek in ESL," she said.

    When the Villaraldos found out and complained, Principal Tim Bishop and others at the district did nothing, she said. Hazen pointed to Alek's "Mexican ancestry," Villaraldo said.

    "They made it seem like it wasn't my decision," Villaraldo said.

    Page 3 of 3

    While Alek was in the ESL program, his grades plummeted, putting him at the bottom of his class, and he dreaded going to school, his parents said.

    In the lawsuit, their attorney Kevin Brague argued that Alek's rights as a person with a disability also were violated. He said the school mistook the child's below-average English proficiency as a language problem, instead of recognizing it as a disability.

    That portion of the lawsuit was dismissed by a federal District Court judge because the parents hadn't exhausted their appeals at the school level.

    Federal law is specific

    Generally, lines do not blur when it comes to judging whether a child belongs in an ESL program, said Raul Gonzalez, legislative director for the National Council of La Raza.

    Gonzalez, a former teacher who focuses on education issues, said federal law provides "very specific instructions" on how to assess children.

    "If the school failed to follow the process, they broke the law," he said.

    Matters can become complicated regarding children with disabilities, said Janette Klingner, professor of education specializing in bilingual special education at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

    Schools commonly err in labeling ESL students as students with disabilities, not the other way around.

    And sometimes, she said, schools ignore parents who say their child speaks only English.

    "Some parents will put 'English' if they don't want the child to be stigmatized, even if the child would be entitled to ESL, and some schools don't necessarily believe what parents say," she said.

    A lack of knowledge about English as a second language and disability issues leaves many school districts exposed to mistakes, said Julie Esparza Brown, director of Portland State University's Bilingual Teacher Pathway program.

    Esparza Brown has been hired to train Hillsboro School District's bilingual educators involved in special education.

    "There aren't enough educators who understand the interface of ESL and special education," she said. "Nationwide, there are very few programs to train people."

    Villaraldo said Alek is in second grade now and no longer in ESL. She said the boy is gradually regaining his ability and interest in learning.

    "We really encourage him," Villaraldo said. "We tell him, 'Alek, school is fun. You're going to be somebody one day.' "

    Esmeralda Bermudez: 503-294-5961; ... thispage=1
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  2. #2
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    Jun 2006
    Oregon (pronounced "ore-ee-gun")
    While I feel for the kid and his family, this entire series of events could have been averted had we implemented 1 common national language to be used in our schools.
    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  3. #3
    Senior Member Cliffdid's Avatar
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    Apr 2005
    The lawsuit seeks $700,000 in damages.
    I'm sure this will ease the pain

  4. #4
    Senior Member WhatMattersMost's Avatar
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    Jan 2007
    Illegal Sanctuary, Illinois
    Quote Originally Posted by Cliffdid
    The lawsuit seeks $700,000 in damages.
    I'm sure this will ease the pain
    Exactly. What puzzles me is why the parents allowed the child to go through 1.5 school years in the wrong environment. It also sounds as though despite him being an English only student there are some developmental progress issues there as well.
    It's Time to Rescind the 14th Amendment

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bowman's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
    North Mexico aka Aztlan
    Since ESL harms Americans can we get that San Francisco judge to stop it like he stopped the SSN checks for the same reason?
    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

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