Speaking to a gathering of civil rights activists at the Community Building in downtown Spokane on Friday, the president of LULAC's Esperanza Council in Brewster, Wash., described the challenges facing minorities in Washington state and her struggle to achieve equality for Latino students in the Brewster Junior-Senior High School. Maria Rodriguez-Salazar also said LULAC's relationship with the NAACP was a good fit because both organizations share the goal of seeking equality of education for minority students. "We are coming together because of the issue of unequal practices and unequal treatment of children of color," Rodriguez-Salazar said. "We are not going to allow our children to be treated unfairly." Across Washington, she said, Latino and African-American students score lower on standardized tests and are disciplined more often than white students. As president of the Esperanza Council of LULAC, Rodriguez-Salazar has led parents in protesting a Nov. 6 meeting at the Brewster school at which Latino students were singled out to sign a behavioral contract threatening them with suspension or expulsion. The parents' efforts in bringing the issue to the attention of state and federal authorities was the subject of a Feb. 1 article in The Spokesman-Review. Frustrated by eight fights since the beginning of the school year, Principal Randy Phillips told the students their Washington Assessment of Student Learning scores were lower than those of Anglo students, they showed less respect for one another and they were bringing each other down, according to students quoted in the February report. The superintendent of the Brewster School District, Kim Kelly, admitted missteps, but denied that Phillips had engaged in racism or racial profiling. Since then, LULAC has asked the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights to investigate the state of Latino education in Brewster, Rodriguez-Salazar said Friday. "These kids continue to be harassed at school," she said. In appearing at the installation of LeBlanc in Spokane, Rodriguez-Salazar said the situation in Brewster is not unique. "Inequality in education is not just a Brewster issue," she said. "It's a state issue." In accepting leadership of the Spokane council, LeBlanc said she would work "hand-in-hand" with the Spokane branch of the NAACP, and will seek its guidance. LeBlanc said LULAC's presence in Spokane will help make the existence of the city's Hispanic community known. "We are here," she said. "We are not going to go away." Contacted by phone Friday night, V. Anne Smith, Spokane NAACP president, said the coalition with LULAC will be brought to a vote of the NAACP branch's executive board and if successful there, to the general membership. She said she supports the coalition and expects it to win approval. "We are very much in agreement with LULAC on educational, social and economic equality for people of color," Smith said. LeBlanc, who said she will stand for election as LULAC's president when the Spokane council has built up its membership, asked for the support of the small crowd gathered Friday night. "Enlighten me and empower me," she said, "so I can help Spokane's Hispanic community."