Charging the state with failing to provide more than 20,000 English learners appropriate instruction and adequate educational assistance, the American Civil Liberties Union of California (ACLU) and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) filed a lawsuit on April 24, 2013, in the state Superior Court, Los Angeles County. D.J. v. State of California. The complaint alleges violations of both the California constitution and the federal Equal Education Opportunities Act of 1974.
In California, one out of every four students has been identified as an English Language Learner (“EL”) student who requires specialized language instructional services to effectively learn and participate in the state’s K-12 public school system. Although the defendants claim that 98% of English language learners in the state are receiving language instructional services, the state’s own documents concede that 20,000 students are not receiving such services, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs claim that the 20,000 unserved students are, in many cases, concentrated in a few school districts in which large numbers of students are being denied their educational rights. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, 4,000 students are currently unserved.
The ACLU and APALC released a report in January identifying 251 school districts that they claim failed to provide legally mandated EL instruction, and subsequently sent a letter to state education officials threatening to sue unless they took immediate correction action. While state officials insist they have been working with local agencies to ensure that districts comply with their EL obligations, plaintiffs say there has been no progress since they raised their concerns three months ago.
The complaint stresses the legal and moral imperative that English learners receive “specialized language instructional services to effectively learn and participate in [the] state’s K-12 public school system.” It alleges that the state, the “ultimate guarantor of the fundamental right to a public education,” is failing to ensure that all schools meet this imperative. Six of the plaintiffs are students who allegedly suffered academically because they did not have the necessary EL instruction to comprehend classroom lessons.
On behalf of public school students, parents, and teachers, attorneys for the plaintiffs are asking the court to order all schools to provide appropriate EL courses and to issue further equitable and legal relief as the court deems necessary.