The League of United Latin American Citizens is demanding reform in English immersion classrooms statewide in response to allegations a Scottsdale teacher struck students.
The Scottsdale Unified School District governing board voted Thursday to fire Kim Youngblood, 52, a former English immersion teacher at Ingleside Middle School. Students alleged she hurt them with sharp open-hand slaps and yelled at them to "shut up" for speaking Spanish and for writing and opening their books too soon in class.
"We’ve had enough," said Silverio Garcia Jr., LULAC education chairman. "It’s very clear to me, it’s not just in Scottsdale, Mesa, Paradise Valley, south Phoenix, Isaac or Buckeye. There are systematic and institutionalized ethnic, Hispanic, failures in this state and we need to address them from a high level."
LULAC will ask its attorneys to consider preparing statewide litigation to address civil rights complaints in numerous districts.
Late last year, students at the East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa protested a cosmetology school rule that forbid Spanish-speaking on campus. The school changed its rules in response.
Numerous federal civil rights complaints have been filed against the Paradise Valley Unified School District as well.
Cathy Rivera, Scottsdale’s director of English Immersion, said students have the First Amendment right to speak Spanish, which she said is a separate issue from requiring English in curriculum as required by Proposition 203, approved in 2000.
"I think, with the passage of (Prop.) 203, some people took it to the extreme," Rivera said. But, she added, the charges against Youngblood are that she hit students for various reasons — not that she would not allow them to speak Spanish.
Youngblood could not be reached for comment. Half Hispanic herself, she told the Tribune in previous interviews that she encouraged students to appreciate their heritage.
She described her actions as "gentle pats" on arms and shoulders to get the attention of students.
On Thursday, she served the district with a lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, alleging the claims against her were drummed up through district translated interviews with students in a community that was less than enthusiastic about English-only education.
The lawsuit seeks $100,000 in lost wages and $1 million in punitive damages.
Youngblood has 30 days to request a hearing to keep her job.