The federal government is investigating alleged discrimination against Spanish-speaking students in Cicero School District 99, which is overwhelmingly Latino.
Parents and activists complained to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights last summer that students classified as “English language learners” — more than half of the district’s 12,470 students — are being discriminated against, sparking the investigation.
“It is critical that English language learners obtain a high-quality, equal-access, public education,” Cicero resident Delia Barajas said before a school board meeting Wednesday evening. Barajas, who had six kids go through Cicero schools, co-founded the group Ixchel, which filed the original complaint.
One first grade teacher, Sandra Davila, says she quit over the conditions of bilingual students in the district. She says teachers aren’t given necessary bilingual materials or training, and she saw children ridiculed for speaking accented English.
Superintendent Rodolfo Hernandez defended the district’s staff and bilingual program at Wednesday’s meeting.
“It’s something we’re very proud about, and it’s something we want to publicize,” he said.
The district denies any wrongdoing and says it’s fully cooperating with the investigation.
The Office for Civil Rights investigation was opened before President Donald Trump’s administration took office, but was only made public at the District 99 school board meeting on Wednesday.
Linda Lutton covers education for WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Sandra Davila said children were ridiculed for speaking Spanish. She said children were ridiculed for speaking accented English.