/ Modified mar 19, 2024 5:41 p.m.

State superintendent helps parent sue AZ school district over dual language learning

The lawsuit comes nearly two weeks after a judge dismissed a similar case.

school esa release

The Creighton Elementary School District is being sued by a parent whose child is not enrolled in the district, over its dual language immersion model.

The lawsuit filed on Monday claims that by allowing a 50-50 dual language immersion model, the district is violating Proposition 203. In 2000, Arizona voters approved a ballot initiative that banned bilingual education for English language learning students.

“The dual language model is contrary to Proposition 203 because it involves teaching the students in a language other than English for half the day every day,” the complaint reads. “The voter-protected initiative specifically requires that English-language learners be taught English by being taught in English and that they be placed in English-language classrooms. Dual language classrooms, in the absence of a statutory waiver, are therefore prohibited by the voter-protected initiative.”

In 2019, the state legislature asked the State Board of Education to expand its English Language Learning models to combat a drop in proficiency and graduation rates that followed after the proposition passed.

At the time, the board approved four learning models:

  • Pull-Out Model
  • Two-Hour Model
  • Newcomer Model
  • 50-50 DLI Model, where a waiver is required

However, the lawsuit says that authorization is void “because the Board cannot overrule a voter-protected initiative.”

The complaint also claims that the district permits dual language instruction for ELL students without the need for a parental waiver. The district did not respond to AZPM’s question about whether this claim was true. Instead, a spokesperson said in an email:

“It was brought to our attention through local media based on a press release they received from the Arizona Department of Education that a Scottsdale Unified School District parent is suing Creighton School District based on our use of a Dual Language Immersion model, which was approved by the State Board of Education as a model for English Language Development. We are working with our legal counsel on this matter. We always strive to do what is best for our kids. We will continue to support parent choice and the programs that are supported by our community and families.”

The plaintiff is asking for the Creighton Elementary School District’s board members to be removed from their office as well as an injunction on the dual language models. If a judge agrees with the parent, then the board members will not be able to hold any position of authority within the Arizona public school system for 5 years.

The suit comes one week after a judge dismissed a different lawsuit filed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne that made the same arguments.

“What she held was that some years ago, the legislature gave the power to some agencies to sue and be sued,” Horne told AZPM. “The Department of Education wasn't one of them, so she didn't think I could bring the lawsuit. So as a result, there's a lawsuit being brought by a parent.”

Horne plans to appeal his case saying “that there was an implied authorization because (Horne) was given many duties to oversee education of English language learners.”

“But I also warned that if my lawsuit was unsuccessful, it would pave the way for any parent of any public school in Arizona to file another lawsuit that would result in these draconian penalties,” Horne said in a statement. “That day has come.”

Horne is not a party in this lawsuit, but his one-time mistress and now wife, Carmen Chenal Horne, is the plaintiff’s attorney. Horne told AZPM News that he helped her with the lawsuit.

She was not immediately available for comment about the case.

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