In April 2010, I was retained to represent two certificated African American employees of the Pasadena Unified School District. They were being terminated from their positions because they didn’t speak Spanish. One had eleven years with the District and had just finished a Ph.D. Her “crime” was she allegedly spoke no Spanish. The District had interpreted a state education code [section 44955(d)] to mean that even if you had more seniority than another employee, you could be fired and replaced by another employee with less experience, if you did not speak Spanish. The practice was called “skipping.” I called it discrimination, in my brief, and in my oral arguments.
The result was that the Administrative Law Judge agreed with me and while one of the two had substantially more experience, the other had less experience and the need to skip was not necessary. This second employee left the District and was hired elsewhere. Pasadena was then left with only one African American in the particular category. I am not mentioning the client’s name or employment category because of the confidential nature of the Attorney-Client relationship.
The point is twofold. One, it is discrimination to change the rules to benefit one group in favor of another for reasons related to race or ethnicity only. Two, if the job market is going to require proficiency in a foreign language then the schools must begin to require a foreign language being taught in elementary schools. Black parents and Civil Rights organizations need to become proactive in getting Spanish in the schools for all children, or suffer the consequences. And, yes, I think the churches need to take the lead in the fight to equalize this problem.
The School District case is disturbing as was another case at a college in Southern California, and yet another at a hospital in Southern California. All found reasons to fire African Americans in favor of Latinos. Stories of public events, including school board meetings, conducting their business in Spanish is also disturbing. Someone better do something to stop the blatant discrimination against Blacks now, or they will be forced to stop it later. Even while this discriminatory practice is being done, there is yet talk of Coalition building. Excuse me! Is that a distraction from what’s really happening? Why would I join a movement to build a coalition, unless it is to deal with the discrimination?
When I received a notice that a well known local Latino organization was already lobbying for who the new Pasadena Superintendent of Schools would be, I frowned and took it as a shot to make sure that the next Superintendent is Latino. Where is the lobby for an African Americans? Remember that with this current Superintendent there were no Blacks in decision making positions for the first time in probably four decades.
Don’t get me wrong. I say more power to them because nature abhors a void and there is a void in African American Leadership. We are too quiet on issues that we should not be quiet on. Yes, I know there are people who will say I am promoting discrimination in favor of Blacks. Well I’m not, but somebody needs to speak up before we wake up and find ourselves further on the outside, looking in.
When the only African American School Board member wrote a column for this newspaper in our “State of Black Pasadena” issue, one of the supporters Ramon Miramontes, the only Latino School Board member criticized her for stating the facts. No one stepped up to the defense of the Black School Board member, and it is believed that Miramontes initiated the attack. We need to let people know we support her, and soon, and start looking for someone to replace Miramontes and his race baiting tactics.
And while we are at it, let us lobby to teach Spanish from kindergarten to college, so we can share in the jobs we create. We need to watch and fight the discrimination based on being bilingual, unless you are going to count the misunderstood Ebonics as a language and add that to the curriculum.