Too few Latino and African American students are enrolled in gifted programs in the Tustin Unified School District, the ACLU charged in a letter sent to the district Thursday. The organization said it planned to sue the district if the disparity was not corrected.
“The district is not doing enough to identify talented students from different racial and ethnic groups and different income levels,” said Hector Villagra, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Orange County office.
“The letter is the ACLU’s opinion, and we’re confident our district does not discriminate against any student,” he said. “We offer a comprehensive learning environment for all of our students.”
The lack of minorities in gifted-education programs is a nationwide issue, according to Carolyn Callahan, an education professor at the University of Virginia and a site director for the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.
About 43% of the district’s students are Latino, yet they made up only 8.6% of the gifted program’s enrollment in 2005-06. African Americans make up 2.4% of the student body and 1.4% of those in the gifted program. Whites make up nearly 36% of the district’s students and nearly 60% of those in the gifted program. Asians, who are 13.3% of the district enrollment, make up 26.6% of the gifted enrollment.
Villagra said he was hopeful the district would implement policies to diversify its gifted program, such as relying less on standardized testing in favor of looking at students’ academic, artistic and leadership potential.
But if changes are not made within a couple months, he said, the organization will sue the district.