Original URL: http://www.arizonarepublic.com

Teen fights English-only rule
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 25, 2003 12:00 AM
Adam Klawonn
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 junior.

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.