Text of Civil-Rights Office Letters To Regionals Heads, School Districts
Following is the text of a Nov. 21 memorandum from Harry M. Singleton, the Education Department's assistant secretary for civil rights, to the directors of the office for civil rights' 10 regional offices regarding the department's new policy on bilingual education.
As you are aware, the policy of the Office for Civil Rights is that school districts must take affirmative steps to provide effective participation in educational programs for national-origin minority students whose proficiency in English is limited (language-minority students). This policy is set forth in the document entitled "Identification of Discrimination and Denial of Services on the Basis of National Origin" (the May 25th memorandum, 35 Fed. Reg. 11595, 1970), which provided clarification of the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) on this matter.
In a memorandum dated July 2, 1982, I issued guidance entitled "Interim Procedures for Conducting Title VI Language-Minority Investigations," which described how ocr staff will conduct complaint and compliance-review investigations in school districts enrolling language-minority stu-dents, and the standards to be followed in determining whether there is a violation of Title VI.
Consistent with the May 25th memorandum, the July 2, 1982, guidance, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lau v. Nichols, ocr's policy for the past several years has been to allow school officials to choose the programs that, in their judgment, provide for the most effective participation of language-minority students in their educational program.
There is some question as to whether all school districts implementing ocr-approved plans (Lau plans) are fully aware of their option to select and implement educational programs of their choice, or to modify significantly or replace programs that they judge not to be as successful as other programs would be in providing for the effective participation of language-minority students.
Each regional office is directed to identify all districts implementing Lau plans negotiated pursuant to Title VI or to the requirements of the former Emergency School Aid Act (esaa), and to notify those districts of the option to modify any of the programs or procedures set forth in agreements, subject to ocr approval.
Specifically, these districts are to be informed that they may implement any program that takes affirmative steps to provide for the effective participation of language-minority students in their educational programs.
Attached is a model letter that may be used as a guide for this notification.
You may need to modify the letter for many former esaa districts, explaining that esaa waiver agreements also meet Title VI requirements.
By January 17, 1986, you are to provide me a list of school districts in your region that have Title VI or esaa agreements on file with your office, indicating the date such agreements were accepted by ocr and the date your office mailed the notification letter mentioned above.
The notification letter should not be sent to any school district where information indicates that language-minority students are not being offered the educational programs required by Title VI. Such districts should be scheduled for compliance reviews. ...
Attached to the memorandum was a copy of the model letter mentioned by Mr. Singleton. Following are excerpts from that letter.
... We are aware of the need for school districts to modify their educational programs from time to time, as indicated by their own experience or by educational research in the field. Changing circumstances may also require the modification of educational programs to ensure the effective educational participation of all language-minority students.
This letter is to remind you that ocr's policy for the past several years has been to allow school officials the flexibility to choose any educational program that meets the educational needs of the language-minority students enrolled in their schools.
In that regard, [your] district has the option to modify any program previously negotiated ... or to change from one type of program to another, as long as the district continues to meet the requirements of Title VI and to provide for the effective participation of all language-minority students in the educational programs it offers. ...
Please note that if you are satisfied with your existing program, modification is not required. Districts that are satisfied with current programs and contemplate no significant changes need not take any further action with regard to this notice. However, if you believe you can better meet the Title VI obligation of taking affirmative steps that will ensure the effective participation of language-minority students in your educational program, you are free to revise or change your program, subject to review by ocr, in accordance with the above. ...