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Bilingual-Education Lawsuit Filed

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A group representing Hispanic parents filed suit in federal district court in Boston last week, charging Massachusetts officials with failure to comply with federal laws protecting the rights of the state's 14,000 Hispanic students of limited English proficiency.

According to lawyers for the Multicultural Education Training and Advocacy Project in Cambridge, Mass., the state officials' actions are directly correlated with the disproportionately high dropout rate among Hispanic students in the state.

The lawyers said the lawsuit, Lynn Hispanic Parent Advisory Committee v. Lawson, differs from similar suits brought in other states in that it explicitly charges state officials with creating the dropout problem by failing to provide an adequate education for language-minority students.

A spokesman for the state education department's legal office said officials there would not comment on the lawsuit until they had examined it.

High Dropout Rate

Roger Rice and Camilo Perez, lawyers for the meta Project, said that in Lynn, where most of the plaintiffs in the case live, 64 percent of all Hispanic students drop out of school between the 7th and 12th grades. The comparable statewide dropout rate for Hispanic students is 47 percent, compared with 9 percent for whites.

According to the lawyers, the class action charges state officials with violating Hispanic students' rights under the First and 14th Amendments, as well as the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that state officials have failed to ensure that bilingual-education teachers are adequately trained and that they have failed to provide an adequate number of bilingual guidance counselors. Taken together, the suit alleges, these two factors have contributed greatly to the high dropout rate among Hispanic students.

The lawsuit also claims that the state has failed to provide adequate bilingual programs in special education, vocational education, and remedial education, and that bilingual curriculum materials are inferior to those provided to other students.--tm

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