Department of Justice Reaches Settlement with Virginia School District to Ensure Equal Opportunites for English Language Learner Students
The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has reached a comprehensive settlement agreement with the Prince William County School District in Virginia to improve services for approximately 13,000 students who are English Language Learners (ELLs) and provide language access for Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents district-wide. With the district’s cooperation, the department conducted an extensive examination of the ELL programs offered by all 93 schools in the district to determine whether ELL students were receiving adequate services as required by the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA). This examination was prompted by compliance issues identified during the department’s earlier EEOA investigation of a complaint regarding the ELL program at a district middle school.
The department identified several issues in its review, including inadequate ELL services for ELL students, an insufficient number of properly qualified teachers and administrators, inadequate ELL materials, gaps in the district’s communications with LEP parents, insufficient procedures for identifying and serving ELL students with disabilities and ensuring nondiscriminatory discipline of ELL students, an incomplete process for families to opt out of ELL services, and a lack of effective monitoring and evaluation of the district's ELL programs.
The agreement requires the district to address these compliance issues identified beginning in the 2013-14 school year and continuing for at least a three-year period. Specifically, the district agrees to:
• Provide all ELL students, including students with disabilities, at all 93 schools with adequate English Language Development (ELD) and sheltered content instruction provided by teachers with appropriate qualifications or training;
• Monitor the progress of ELL teachers and administrators towards obtaining required training, and ensure that administrators account for the use of appropriate ELD and sheltering techniques in teacher evaluations;
• Require principals or other designated administrators to receive training regarding their ELL program-related responsibilities, including but not limited to establishing meaningful communications with parents of ELL students and LEP parents, ensuring that parents’ decisions to opt their children out of ELL services are informed and monitored, reviewing current and former ELL student performance and recommending program adjustments as needed and providing ELL students with adequate instructional materials;
• Modify the district’s registration and enrollment practices to ensure that students are able to access its programs regardless of race, national origin or immigration status;
• Provide ELL students and LEP parents with meaningful access to discipline and special education forms, codes, notices, procedures and meetings;
• Institute cultural responsiveness training for teachers to promote effective engagement with students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds; and
• Collect and review data to identify and address any student disparities and to evaluate the effectiveness of ELL programs.
“We applaud the Prince William County school district for working cooperatively with the United States to ensure that all English language learner students have access to the services to which they are entitled,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We will continue to work cooperatively with the district to monitor its compliance with the agreement.”
The enforcement of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.