Is the Justice Department Becoming More Active on ELLs?

By Mary Ann Zehr — July 27, 2010 1 min read
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Following a recommendation in an audit by the U.S. Department of Justice, Nevada’s Carson City School District has expanded a part-time position for a director of the district’s English-as-a-second-language program to a full-time position, reports the Nevada Appeal.

What’s noteworthy about this July 16 news article from a national point of view is that an audit by the Justice Department apparently spurred a change in how a school district provides services for English-language learners. This is the second time this month I’ve heard of the Justice Department’s involvement in reviewing services to ELLs. The department recently announced that the Illinois state board of education had clarified administrative rules to ensure ELLs in that state receive special help to learn the language until they reach proficiency in the language.

I’ve reported news that the Obama administration is beefing up enforcement of the civil rights of students in schools. When the U.S. Department of Education announced it would more strictly enforce civil rights laws, it focused on actions that would be taken by the office for civil rights of that government agency. But I’m wondering if the Justice Department is also becoming more active in this realm.

It’s the job of the Justice Department to ensure that school districts comply with the section of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 that calls for them to take action to overcome language barriers that hinder English-language learners from getting equal access to a high-quality education.

I sent an e-mail message to a spokeswoman for the Justice Department asking if the department is stepping up enforcement of civil rights laws for English-language learners. I’ll pass along any response that she may give me in a future blog post.

Let me know if Justice Department officials have visited your school district to review services for ELLs and what the outcomes were from the visit.

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