Anti-bilingual law challenged in Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. – In a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for Arizona the William E. Morris Institute for Justice (Justice Institute) has challenged the constitutionality of voter-approved Proposition 203, which places severe limitations on the provision of bilingual education.

The racist Proposition 203, approved by voters in November 2000, was financed by out-of-state anti-immigrant millionaire Ron Unz, Proposition 203 places severe constraints on the utilization of bilingual and other forms of English language acquisition, relying upon a structured “English immersion” approach.

The initiative also contains provisions allowing some students to continue utilizing bilingual or other methodologies of English language acquisition through “parental waivers.”

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Jasmine Morales, a first grade student at Grijalva Elementary School here, and her parents, asserts that the waiver process is unconstitutional because it fails to provide parents and children with the minimum requirements of due process.

The lawsuit also alleges that the proposition violates the federal Equal Education Opportunity Act of 1974 (EEOA). It claims that Jasmine is not being provided with an “appropriate education” as required by the EEOA.

In Jasmine’s case, both her classroom teacher and principal recommended that she be placed in a bilingual program because she was making no progress whatsoever in either English acquisition or academic content areas in a “structured English immersion class.”

Nonetheless, without notice or explanation to the parents, Tucson Unified School District denied the request.

The Justice Institute lawsuit alleges that parents and child have due process rights in the waiver process and are entitled to notice of the reasons for denial of a waiver as well as an ability to appeal a denial.

According to Justice Institute Litigation Director Tom Berning, “Proposition 203 is mean spirited, reflects unsound educational policy and more importantly, is an unconstitutional deprivation of procedural due process.”

For decades, the United States Congress encouraged local school districts to develop and implement bilingual education and other English language remediation programs by providing financial assistance under the Bilingual Education Act, Congress has required that LEP students be given the means to overcome language barriers preventing their access to equal educational opportunities.