Blog: Latino Ed Beat

ACLU Considers Lawsuit Over California’s Treatment of ELL Students

A recent report by two civil rights groups asserts that more than 20,000 California public schoolchildren who are English language learners are receiving no language services, and threatens a lawsuit if no action is taken to remedy the situation.

The American Civil Liberties Union of California and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center collaborated on the study, which was released last week, and sent a letter to Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the California State Board of Education demanding changes. They gave them 30 days to deliver a plan.

“The children who are neglected today, in schools with no EL services, become the long-term English learners of tomorrow, sometimes struggling their entire school careers without anyone stepping in to make sure they have the tools to learn,” Jessica Price, staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, said in a news release.

The district with the most students not being served, according to the report, is the Los Angeles Unified School District, with 4,150. As the Los Angeles Times reported, ELLs make up a quarter of California students, of which about 85 percent are U.S.-born. The civil rights groups want improvements such as better monitoring of programs by the state, sanctions on districts that are not providing services, and that the districts create a plan to improve instruction if sanctioned.

The state responded that 98 percent of the state’s ELLs are receiving services and that progress has been made in delivering better instruction to English learners.

“Despite the enormous financial strains of recent years, California has made dramatic progress in seeing that all English learners receive appropriate instruction and services,” education official Karen Cadiero-Kaplan said in a statement, according to the Times.