Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Civil Rights in Schools: Whose Issue Is It?

Much to my chagrin, I've only recently learned of Horne v Flores, a case that began in Arizona that has now reached the Supreme Court, having been heard on April 20th. In the legal works, so to speak, for 17 years, the case began with an English language learner (ELL) named Miriam Flores who was enrolled in public school in Nogales, Arizona.

According to the SCOTUS website, a group of parents and students filed suit on behalf of Miss Flores and other students learning English, claiming the district had "fail[ed] to take 'appropriate action' to overcome learning barriers for ELL students." In other words, they felt like these children weren't being given a fair shot because they were not native speakers of English.

Whether they were or they weren't treated fairly is now for the Supreme Court to decide, but where my question lies concerning this case is in the legislation that classifies the discrimination.

Citing "specific ELL requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001" and the Equal Education Opportunity Act of 1974 (EEOA), the group's attorneys made a strong enough of a case to win in district court. But what I'm wondering in all of this is where's Title VI come into play?

I've spent a good part of my evening tonight looking over the SCOTUS site and reading different reports on the Horne v Flores hearing. To me, if the discrimination happened the way the plantiffs say it did, then we have a clear violation of Title VI, which states that "no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be
denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any
program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." So, if these students were discriminated against because of their language (which is certainly linked to national origin) and since public schools do receive federal funding, how does Title VI not apply?

I realize this is a translating and interpreting blog, but when rights are chiseled away in one place, they tend to quickly be chiseled away in another. And Title VI certainly affects translators and interpreters to a profound and notable degree, if for no other reason than it guarantees we'll be required. So, I thought you, my dear readers, might find this interesting all the same.

Tell me what you think. Whose issue is it? Simply that of education legislators or that of the nation's civil rights laws as a whole?

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