Thursday, May 15, 2008

Parents take province to court--NB newspapers

Published Thursday May 15th, 2008, daily gleaner

New Brunswick parents have taken their fight to save the province's early French immersion program to the next level.

Legal papers were filed Wednesday in the Court of Queen's Bench in Saint John by parents seeking a review of the changes being implemented to French-second language programming this fall.

Education Minister Kelly Lamrock announced in March that French would no longer be taught in anglophone schools until Grade 5.

His decision followed the release of a controversial report recommending an overhaul of the system to reduce streaming and produce more bilingual graduates.

Streaming refers to the belief that higher-achieving students take early French immersion, while students who may not be as gifted end up in the core program.

Tim Jackson, one of the parents who helped organize the legal action, said he's hopes this latest effort by parents will save early immersion.

"The decision to change French programming in the province was made hastily and wasn't a transparent process," Jackson said. "Parents, according to the Department of Education, are considered a partner in the delivery of the education system, and yet we were basically left out of the debate altogether."

Jackson, who lives in Saint John, said his daughter has had tremendous success with the early French-immersion program.

She reads in both languages and enjoys learning about French culture.

It's an experience Jackson wanted for his son, who will enter Grade 1 in the fall.

"This is bigger than just wanting my son in the program, though," Jackson said.

"The public was given only two weeks to respond to the report on French programming before the minister announced his decision. That wasn't even enough time for most to digest the report, let alone have anything to say about it."

Patrick Ryan, a concerned parent in Fredericton, provided an affidavit with the request for a judicial review.

He recently returned to New Brunswick with his family in hopes of exposing his children to French at a young age.

"Our expectation moving home to New Brunswick last year was that both our children would have the opportunity to participate in early French immersion," Ryan said. "What concerns us most is the limited consultation and the lack of transparency for such an extreme upheaval to our provinces's education system."

Jackson said he believes a judicial review will, at least, force a delay in the elimination of early French immersion and allow researchers and French second-language experts to come forward with a better solution for the streaming issue.

Legal costs associated with the case are being covered by New Brunswick parents.

Fredericton lawyer Thomas Christie will provide legal representation.

Click here to link to article.

More NB newspaper coverage:

Parents go to court to save program: Rights Papers filed state N.B.'s decision to axe French immersion is contrary to Charter
Published Thursday May 15th, 2008

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