The American Civil Liberties Union of California and others are threatening legal action against the state if educators don’t immediately act “to provide essential language instruction to thousands of underserved English learner (EL) students, as required by state and federal law.”
As part of the ACLU's looming litigation, the Lake Elsinore Unified School District is being accused along with 250 other districts in the state of not adequately educating EL kids: The ACLU claims 41 EL students in the LEUSD received no services to help them learn English during the 2010-11 school year. Statewide, more than 20,000 EL students were not getting services they needed, according to a Jan. 23 report from the ACLU.
And the practice continues, ACLU officials allege.
“The lack of instruction violates legal mandates …,” according to a statement from the ACLU, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP.
LEUSD officials reject the claim that local EL kids aren’t getting a proper education, and state officials also deny allegations.
The district has been reviewing the ACLU report, LEUSD spokesman Mark Dennis said last week. “There are questions about how the data was compiled,” he explained, noting that the state has undergone a switch to new data systems, which could explain the discrepancy.
According to ACLU figures, the LEUSD had a total of 3,339 EL students across the district in 2010-11, and approximately 1.23 percent did not receive any English language services.
Dr. Karen Cadiero-Kaplan, director of the California Department of Education's English Learner Support Division, issued the following Jan. 23 response to the ACLU claims:
"Despite the enormous financial strains of recent years, California has made dramatic progress in seeing that all English learners receive appropriate instruction and services. School districts — which are responsible for providing instruction to students and appropriate services to English learners — currently report that more than 98 percent of the state's 1.4 million English learners are receiving services."
The ACLU disagrees.
“State educational officials are creating a caste system whereby tens of thousands of children—nearly all of whom are U.S. citizens—are denied access to the bond of English language that unites us as Californians and are placed instead into linguistic isolation which prevents them from achieving academic proficiency in state-mandated curricula,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU of Southern California.
“Affording no services whatsoever to these children ghettoizes them …,” Rosenbaum continued. “And because English learners make up one quarter of all students in California’s public schools and one out of every four EL students in the nation are in California schools, the state’s no-services practices leave not only these children far behind, but also California along with them.”
The ACLU and other organizations have requested a response from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the State Board of Education within 30 days.