BURBANK : District Faces New Bias Complaint

The Burbank Unified School District is facing a racial discrimination complaint from Latino parents upset over a sudden, midyear change to their children's elementary school bilingual program.

A Burbank human rights group filed the federal complaint early this month on behalf of the parents, who say they were left out of the district's decision-making process at William McKinley Elementary School.

Language arts lessons at McKinley used to be taught in bilingual classrooms that included Spanish-speaking students with limited English skills.

In February, the district moved those students--and not other limited-English students--into separate classrooms during the two-hour sessions, as well as during some math classes. All other lessons remained integrated, school officials say. "Parents generally want kids in English classes as soon as possible," said Lila Ramirez of the Burbank Human Relations Council. "If they (Latino parents) had an option, they'd prefer all English. But they weren't given the English-only option."

School Supt. David Aponik declined to discuss the case, and the Burbank school board met in closed session Thursday to review the matter.

Others in the school system contend that district officials were only looking out for the best interest of students and teachers, and modified McKinley's bilingual program to resemble those at other district schools.

"The students' instructional program wasn't changed," said Andrea Canady, director of curriculum and bilingual programs. "They are still receiving the same exact materials and the same instruction received in the past."

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