Original URL: http://www.arizonarepublic.com/arizona/articles/1101pvcomplaint.html

District faces complaint
Paradise Valley accused of bias in use of English

By Kirsten Sorenson
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 1, 2002

NORTHEAST PHOENIX - A national task force is filing a civil rights complaint against the Paradise Valley Unified School District, alleging that the district discriminates against parents and students with limited English skills.

The complaint comes as Arizona voters are deciding whether to elect School Board President Tom Horne as state superintendent of public instruction on Tuesday.

Horne characterizes the charges as "completely false" and calls it a political stunt.

"It's a dirty tactic to send out a press release just before the election," Horne said.

Kathy Poulos-Minott, a spokeswoman for the National Limited English Proficiency Advocacy Task Force, thinks the issue should be factored into the election.

"I think it's very important that the public is aware of the pervasive discrimination in the district and that Tom Horne is the primary influence of these practices," she said.

The complaint alleges that the district does not provide qualified interpretation and translation.

"Many parents are denied equitable participation in school programs and activities, including bilingual education," said Poulos-Minott of the Portland, Maine,-based, task force.

Horne said the district provides translation services at board meetings.

"Whenever an individuals needs translation, we do it," Horne said.

Calling the allegations "untrue and politically motivated," district spokeswoman Judy DeWalt said the district will consider taking legal action against the task force.

The complaint will be filed with the U. S. departments of Justice, Education, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services offices for civil rights, Poulos-Minott said. It will ask the district to provide better interpretation and translation services. The Paradise Valley district has recently come under fire for its decision to change a program at Palomino Elementary School. Children who spoke some English used to be eligible for the program, but the district now requires that the children be fluent.

A number of parents with limited English skills have complained that they've been ignored at board meetings.

The task force has recently resolved a similar complaint against the Tucson Unified School District and that school district has to improve its bilingual services.


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