U46’s gifted program defended at discrimination trial (Sun-Times Media)
by Emily McFarlan Miller
CHICAGO — Rachael Jackson, a bilingual gifted specialist in Elgin School District U46 for the past 10 years, said if the district ended its gifted program for Spanish-speaking students, “I would cry.”
“The students need the support,” Jackson said. “They need to be in a place where they feel safe, where they feel confident, where they’re with other kids like them.”
That program is one of several under fire in the racial discrimination trial against U46 in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Phases two and three of the lawsuit, which began last fall, allege the state’s second-largest school district did not offer appropriate help to English Language Learner students. They also claim it did not offer students who were black or Hispanic access to gifted and advanced programs.
Phase one, argued a year ago, alleges U46 discriminated against black and Hispanic students by placing them in overcrowded schools in its 2004 school boundary plan.
Much of the testimony this week has been about the school district’s School Within A School and Spanish English Transition School Within A School programs.
SWAS is its gifted program from elementary and middle school students. SET SWAS is its gifted program taught in both English and Spanish for students who either still qualify for services from the district’s ELL program or recently exited the program, meaning they are considered proficient in English.
Judge Robert W. Gettleman questioned why students considered proficient in English would be placed SET SWAS.