Equity & Diversity

District Works to Root Out Bias Against Spanish-Speaking Students, Teachers

By Corey Mitchell — September 17, 2015 1 min read
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In the first installment of the Education Week series Beyond Bias: Countering Stereotypes in Schools, my colleague Sarah Sparks takes a look at the Adams County 14, Colo., school district’s efforts to overcome widespread discrimination against Spanish-speaking students and teachers.

In a district where more than 80 percent of the students are Latino, and 60 percent are English-language learners, federal investigators found evidence that bilingual teachers and those who spoke accented English were systematically forced out of their jobs, and those who remained were told not to speak Spanish to students or parents.

Sarah’s deeply reported, incisive story takes a look at the pervasive nature of the discrimination.

Here’s a link to the story. Here’s a particularly telling paragraph:

“In the high school, federal investigators found a teacher “almost caused a riot” after repeatedly removing Hispanic students from the classroom and telling them to “go back to Mexico.” In several elementary schools, Spanish-speaking students were forced to throw out bilingual reading books. When one kindergartner fell and hit his head on the playground, he asked for help in Spanish, and the teacher on duty told him he could do so only in English. He went without medical care for hours before being taken to the hospital for stitches.”

Adams County 14 is among 1,400 districts across the country operating under compliance agreements with the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights to correct systemic discrimination based on race, sex, disability, or other characteristics.

As the district works to rebuild trust, Superintendent Patrick Sánchez has brought in high-profile Latino speakers to speak to students and the community, and school-level leaders have worked to help teachers better understand the bias and obstacles that many English-learners face.

Sarah’s story is the first in a yearlong series that will examine efforts to recognize and overcome discrimination in schools. If you care about the education of Latino students and English-language learners, it’s a must read.

Photo: Maritza Fabia, a 3rd grader at Rose Hill Elementary School in Colorado’s Adams 14 school district, listens to her teacher during a Spanish class. The district is under a federal compliance agreement to correct discrimination problems.--Nathan W. Armes for Education Week

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.