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Esmeralda County Policy Change Comes After ACLU Sends Letter To School District
LAS VEGAS – After receiving a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Esmeralda County School District has agreed to make it clear that students are allowed to speak Spanish while they ride the school bus and will send a letter to parents - in both Spanish and English - explaining the district’s language policy. The new policy rescinds a ban on speaking Spanish on the bus that was approved by the Esmeralda County School Board in October 2007.
“The school district understands that students have a constitutional right to free speech,” said Gary Peck, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nevada. “Once the superintendent was informed that prohibiting students from speaking Spanish violated their rights, the school district was very willing to work out a policy that both encourages students to practice their English skills and allows them to speak their native language.”
Esmeralda County School District’s revised policy states that “there is no general rule prohibiting Spanish on any of our buses.”
The prohibition on Spanish directly affected about a dozen high school students from a small farming and ranching community in Esmeralda who are bused by the Esmeralda County School District several miles – about an hour and a half each way – to Tonopah High School in neighboring Nye County.
On the evening leg of the bus ride that these students take back to Esmeralda County, there is an academic period for the first 45 minutes, during which the students are required to do homework, study, or read. The second 45-minute period of the evening ride is considered free time. During the academic period, the school district asks that all students practice their English skills. Students who are more proficient in English may speak Spanish while assisting those whose English is more limited. Students who are still developing their English skills will work with the tutor who rides with them.
Students may speak to each other in any language they choose during the morning leg of the bus ride as well as during the non-academic portion of the evening bus ride. When communicating with the bus driver and with tutors on the bus, the school district asks that students speak in English or that they ask another student to interpret if necessary because neither the bus driver nor the tutors speak Spanish.
“We are pleased that the school district recognizes that it’s possible to achieve its educational goals while embracing our nation’s growing diversity,” said Jennifer Chang, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The school district’s new rule welcomes Latino children into the school community; this benefits children of all backgrounds.”
There are other buses that shuttle students back and forth between Esmeralda County and Nye County. These bus rides do not include an academic period, and students on these buses also may speak any language they wish.
The ACLU’s letter to the school district is online in both English and Spanish at:
More information on the work of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project is available at: www.aclu.org/immigrants