Group Says OH School District Neglects Hispanic Students

     (CN) — An Ohio school district doesn’t give students with low English skills a meaningful education, and its superintendent said they only need to know “the difference between the words mop and broom,” an immigrant advocacy group says.
     The Ohio Immigrant Worker Project (OIWP) claims in a class-action lawsuit filed Monday in Northern Ohio Federal Court that Dover City Schools intentionally discriminates against immigrant students with limited English skills.
     Almost all the limited English proficiency students in Dover, a city 80 miles south of Cleveland, are Hispanic, according to the lawsuit.
     “Defendants have intentionally both failed to ensure that [limited English proficient, or LEP] immigrant children have received or are receiving the appropriate services and supports to learn English and substantive academic content and segregated them physically during both regular class hours and during school lunch periods,” the complaint states.
     During the 2013-2014 school year, LEP high school students were taught by a teacher who did not speak Spanish, OIWP says. The teacher was allegedly not licensed to teach English as a Second Language (ESL), and did not teach a specific LEP curriculum.
     LEP students were also physically separated from other students, sent to a basement classroom, and not permitted to mingle with white students during lunch period, according to the complaint.
     During the 2014-2015 school year, LEP students were allegedly bussed to spend half their day at a site that includes a juvenile detention facility, although LEP students were not in the locked-down area.
     Only elective subjects were taught to LEP students, both at Dover schools and offsite, and therefore none of the credits qualified towards core academic graduation requirements, according to OIWP. Thus, even with full-time attendance, LEP students cannot graduate high school, the group says.
     “Many DCS staff are indifferent or even hostile to LEP students enrolled and attending DCS schools,” the complaint states. “A good example of this indifference or hostility is when defendant [Carla] Birney, then the Dover High School principal, stated in a meeting regarding LEP issues that the LEP immigrant children enrolled in Dover Schools: ‘These children do not need to know a lot of English, only the difference between the words ‘mop’ and ‘broom.””
     Birney now serves as superintendent for Dover City Schools, according to the lawsuit.
     “This statement by a major administrator made in the presence of and directed to DCS staff, communicated the belief that the LEP students are not intelligent, that the LEP students need only be educated or trained to a minimal level to work menial jobs and that the LEP immigrant students are not worthy of the same educational opportunities as the white DCS students,” the complaint states.
     OIWP says Dover’s neglect of LEP students increases their chance of delinquency, by making it nearly impossible for them to get an education.
     The group seeks an injunction requiring Dover City Schools to hire qualified teachers licensed to teach ESL, and to inform parents about their child’s level of English proficiency, the standards for the child to be moved out of the LEP program, and the expected rate of graduation from high school under the program.
     OIWP is represented by Mark Heller with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Toledo, Ohio.
     Birney said in a statement that the lawsuit misquoted her.
     “While it is inappropriate for me to discuss any legal matters on the advice of counsel and per our district policy, I can tell you that the alleged quotes attributed to me are absolutely false,” Birney said. “The district will continue to see this claim through the proper legal process.”

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