Cross-Cultural Conflict in a Special Education Dispute:
Los Angeles Unified School District v. Enrique Santa Cruz
Enrique Santa Cruz is a seven-year-old boy, who suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Expressive Language Disorder. He is eligible for special education and related services under the category of Developmental Delay. He is enrolled in a Special Day Class (SDC) at Mendoza Elementary School, a school within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). He receives English as a Second Language Instruction (ESL). He was born in Los Angeles to immigrant parents, Fernando and Lupe Santa Cruz, who immigrated to the United States in 2000, two years before Enrique was born. Enrique is their only son.
Enrique has been enrolled in the LAUSD since kindergarten, and was diagnosed with ADD when he was in the five years old. Like many Latino parents, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Cruz believe it is crucial to be involved with Enrique’s education, but also preferred to keep a “respectful distance from the teacher.” However, when it comes to Enrique’s ESL, the parents fight to keep ESL in his curriculum. The Parents have fought to have the District agree to provide ESL in Enrique’s classroom from kindergarten thru first grade. Enrique is now in the second grade. His parents believe that Enrique will continue to need an ESL curriculum throughout his elementary years until he overcomes his Expressive Language Disorder. On May 19, 2010, Enrique’s parents, through their advocate, Mandy Fricatta, requested an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting to discuss the issue of whether their son would continue to benefit with ESL. The negotiation that followed will be outline below.
The cross-cultural conflict between the Santa Cruz family and the District effected the negotiation at the IEP as to whether Enrique will be able to continue ESL in his classroom and whether the District would provide a translator for Mrs. Santa Cruz at the IEP meeting. This paper will discuss the cultural difference between the Santa Cruz family and the personnel from the School District. Federal and case law will introduce the overall right of access for special needs children to a free and appropriate education and accommodations such as ESL and translation services. This paper will also discuss the negotiations that occurred during the IEP meeting, the result, and analyze how aspects of cultural differences influenced the conflict between the school district and the Santa Cruz family. I will conclude the paper with some proposed solutions that may improve the way teachers address the educational needs of Latino special needs students and their families. While the paper references Latinos, Mexican-Americans are the main cultural group examined.