English-only classes are challenged by parents
Pat Kossan
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 1, 2003 12:00 AM

WEST PHOENIX - A mother and father are suing a west Phoenix school district, claiming it broke the law by denying their two young sons the right to learn in both Spanish and English.

It is just the beginning of a legal assault on Arizona's English-only education law, said Tucson attorney Thomas Berning, who is representing
Alicia and Rene Alvarez.

"It's certainly my intention to challenge its constitutionality," said Berning, who works for the Morris Institute of Justice and plans a more expansive suit with several education and Latino groups.

The law was passed by voters in 2000 and requires kids who aren't fluent in English to attend classes taught only in English, but it allows parents to
sign waivers to keep some kids in bilingual classes.

Berning's lawsuit, filed last week in Maricopa County Superior Court, claims the Isaac Elementary District granted those waivers to the Alvarez boys. But district officials never told the parents they could transfer their children to a school with bilingual classes, the suit claims. Once the children moved, the district never notified the parents that their kids were pulled from the program and placed into an English-only class. The suit claims the
neglect hurt the boys' academic progress, represents a pattern of illegal behavior in the district, and names Superintendent Paul Hanley as a

"It's my belief that the district is following state law," Hanley said.