Dinuba Unified sued for how they teach English

FRESNO, Calif.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday against Dinuba Unified, and is the first of its kind in the state. It seeks to end an English language instruction program, which they say does more harm than good.

American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU is representing the plaintiffs. They say the main focus of this suit is not for money, but rather to end the program in place, and find one that works.

Nona Rhea said, "That's the part that's difficult to go to sleep at night, knowing you did not give children the tools and the materials."

Rhea admits she's not the most outspoken person, except when it comes to her students. The longtime Dinuba Unified teacher is suing the district, over a program called SLADI: second language acquisition development instruction.

It's offered to most first and second grade Spanish speakers within the district's five elementary schools, and is supposed to help them learn to read and write in English before integrating them into mainstream classes.

Nona Rhea, a Dinuba Unified teacher said, "In SLADI, those grammar lessons are isolated, and they're not about subjects these students are familiar with."

Rhea claims they're not allowed to read the kids books and that sometimes two and half hour lessons are based solely on teaching them to say just one sentence. She compares it to teaching someone how to swim, without putting them in water.

A parent, who wants to remain anonymous, says her second grade daughter has suffered as a result. "Well, she feels like she goes away, apart from the other kids."

SLADI was first implemented in 2009.

Jory Steele, the managing attorney for ACLU-Northern California, says their research proves the program is a failure.

Jory Steele said, "In 2009, four out of five elementary schools in Dinuba unified a standardized test showing their children were learning English. By 2010-2011, four out of five elementary schools were failing that same test."

As for how the district is responding to the lawsuit, Superintendent Joe Hernandez released a statement, saying quote:

"We always want to work with anyone concerned about how we can provide the best education possible for our children so we extended an invitation to talk with them even before the lawsuit was filed, and again today. We will not comment on the substance of the conversation except to say we are talking, and that is a good start."

The state of California is also named in the suit. They released a statement saying, in part; it is unfortunate a suit was filed as opposed to meeting with state officials to address their concerns. The state superintendent however, is working hard to help districts meet the needs of English learners.

Copyright © 2020 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.