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ACLU Sues California for Underserving English Language Learners

| April 25, 2013
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Southern California civil rights lawyers with the ACLU and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center sued California education officials Wednesday, alleging the state is allowing tens of thousands of English-learning students to languish without help. About one in four students in the state are considered English learners.

Mark Rosenbaum of the ACLU of Southern California is spearheading the lawsuit against state education officials (ACLU-SC/Flickr)

Mark Rosenbaum, chief legal counsel for the ACLU of Southern California, is spearheading the lawsuit against state education officials (ACLU-SC/Flickr)

Mark Rosenbaum of the ACLU said the state has done nothing since his group brought up the chronic statewide problem four months ago, sending a letter to top state education officials demanding improvement.

“For the past 16 years, the state of California has received and published these reports affecting millions of children, their families, and their communities, and the state of California has done nothing, nada,” Rosenbaum told KPCC Public Radio reporter Adolfo Guzman Lopez.

Inadequate help, Rosenbaum said, is leading many English learners to drop out. He said that schools collect money for English language instruction yet fail to provide adequate English language education.

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

The suit also describes the educational struggles of three families with Spanish-speaking children in the Compton Unified School District and a San Diego 18-year-old in the Grossmont Union High School District.

In each case, schools identified the students as English learners but were later taken out of English language classes. Later, the suit alleges, their grades dropped dramatically in courses where they struggled to understand instruction,

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

“The Department will continue to work with local agencies to ensure compliance with districts’ obligations to provide services to English learners,” Zeiger said.

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.

Adolfo Guzman Lopez of KPCC, Shaya Tayefe Mohajer of the AP and Rachael Marcus of KQED contributed to this report.

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Category: Education, Legal

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