Original URL: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/09/17/state1223EDT0071.DTL

Lodi Parents Sue District for Denying Bilingual Education
September 17, 2003
Associated Press

Parents of children enrolled at an elementary school here have filed a lawsuit accusing the Lodi Unified School District of discriminating against Latino families after officials allegedly punished their children and discouraged bilingual education.

The lawsuit alleges Latino students suffered unfair punishment, such as denying the use of bathroom facilities, when disciplined. Parents who complained about the problems were ostracized and faced retaliation, the lawsuit said.

They seek an unspecified award and want the school district to comply with requirements of a consent decree forged several years ago with the government regarding bilingual services.

"The goal of the parents is very simple -- that the school district complies with the law and treats them fairly," said Joel M. Murillo, who represents Gloria Nava and Alejandra Esqueda in the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court's Eastern District on Tuesday.

School district officials declined to comment, but said they have made strides to provide bilingual education.

Latino parents on Tuesday held signs calling for educational fairness at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. The announcement coincided with Mexican Independence Day, which was being celebrated at Lawrence Elementary School, where Latinos comprise 70 percent of the student population.

"It had to be done so they don't treat us the way they did," said Ramona Cervantes, who has three children at Lawrence. "We'll see if we get their attention."

Last November, parents picketed in front of Lawrence and a district building protesting a lack of minority teachers and alleged insensitivity toward Spanish-speaking students. Administrators met with parents to try to resolve the issue but families said they were still unsatisfied.