Blog: Latino Ed Beat

After Civil Rights Complaints, N.Y. District Holds Bilingual Board Meeting

(Flickr/Cliff)

The Springs Union Free School District in New York has been accused of violating the civil rights of its Latino students, who comprise the majority of its student population. 

Though school officials and teachers, as well as parents, have refuted these claims, the district decided to hold its first bilingual board meeting last week. They offered agendas in both English and Spanish, and two teachers translated the proceedings, helping at least 15 parents with limited English proficiency, reports Christine Sampson of The East Hampton Star.

Sampson writes that a former staff member had alleged during recent meetings that the district was failing to meet the needs of some of its Latino families and had violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to reports, students had been asked to translate for their parents, and some Latino families had been made to wait for several weeks before they could register their children for school, “even with proper paperwork in hand.”

Minerva Perez, the executive director of the Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, a nonprofit that advocates for the area’s Latino communities, said she also had concerns about the district’s treatment of Latino students. OLA  holds events for Latino residents on topics such as immigration and education, and Perez told Sampson she had heard from parents about some issues “specifically against the New York State Board of Education regulations” that she had previously brought to the board’s attention. 

Two weeks before the meeting, Latino parents had also expressed to the board that without translated notices and meetings, it was difficult for them to stay informed about what’s happening in the school district. The bilingual meeting seemed to be a first step in the right direction for some families, who thanked the board for adding the Spanish-language services. 

“It’s important to know what’s going on for the well-being of the children,” one parent said through a translator. 

In an email, board president Liz Mendelman said the change was “a good step forward” and that “in addition to the several components that the district currently has in place to effectively communicate with our Spanish-speaking residents, we are always exploring additional ways to further enhance our communication efforts,” Sampson reports.

An upcoming eighth-grade graduation party planning meeting for parents will also have a translator present