OCR Complaint Filed Against California District Regarding ELLs

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 08, 2009 1 min read
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Public Advocates has filed a complaint in the office for civil rights of the U.S. Department of Education contending that the Centinela Valley Union High School District in Lawndale, Calif., has discriminated against English-language learners. The complaint says that the district violated ELLs’ rights when it closed a program for beginning and intermediate ELLs at one high school and required them to transfer to another high school. Find local media coverage of the issue here. The Centinela Valley superintendent says the district has already made some changes to respond to the complaint, according to that local story.

Public Advocates has posted a copy of the Oct. 6 complaint.

A press release about the complaint put out by Public Advocates notes that federal law requires school districts to give ELLs access to the core curriculum. That’s true, according to agreements I’ve seen in the past between school districts and OCR, drawn up after OCR officials investigate a complaint about ELL services.

But the press release makes another point that I haven’t seen pop up before. It says that ELLs have “the right to attend their local school, just as non-ELL students do.” The actual complaint phrases the issue a bit differently, contending that the high school that closed the program for beginning and intermediate ELLs isn’t giving those students equal access to an education at that school because it closed the program.

Quite a few school districts concentrate services for ELLs in some schools and not others, as it seems that Centinela Valley Union High School tried to do. So it will be interesting to see if OCR decides to investigate this complaint.

The authors of the complaint say they interviewed a student who says she knows five students who dropped out of high school rather than transfer to another high school to receive ELL services. Now, that’s a statement that is very disconcerting.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.