20,000 Students Sue Calif. Educators for Not Teaching English

Shaya Tayefe Mohajer, Christian Science Monitor, April 25, 2013

About 20,000 students in California who need to learn English aren’t getting adequate language instruction, according to a lawsuit against the state and education workers filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Under state and federal law, schools are required to teach non-English speakers the language, but by its own records, the state isn’t offering English instruction to nearly 20,000 students. The suit alleges that lack of instruction has meant some children had to be held back a grade or live with low proficiency scores because of a language barrier.

The ACLU brought the issue to the attention of the state with a letter in January, and officials say they’re working to ensure compliance at the local level.

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Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Zeiger said in a statement that the state is determined to provide English learners appropriate instruction and encouraged parents to bring problems to the state’s attention.

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Zeiger also noted that a recent appellate court decision found that the department was meeting its legal obligations related to on-site monitoring of English learners.

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In response to the January letter, school officials acknowledged the problem while adding more than 98 percent of the state’s 1.4 million English learners are receiving services.

The suit seeks a court order for schools to provide courses to English learners who need them, attorney’s fees for filing the suit and unspecified further equitable relief the court finds appropriate.

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