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Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Friday, August 31, 2012

Departments of Justice and Education Reach Settlement with Arizona Department of Education to Ensure That ELL Students Are Properly Identified and Not Prematurely Exited

The Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, and the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, today entered into a settlement agreement with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) that requires ADE and Arizona public schools to offer targeted reading and writing intervention services to tens of thousands of English Language Learner (ELL) students who were prematurely exited or incorrectly identified as Initially Fluent English Proficient (IFEP) over the past five school years. The agreement also requires ADE to develop proficiency criteria that accurately identify and exit ELL students. 

“Proper classification of ELL students is essential to ensuring that students receive the services they need to help them overcome language barriers and participate equally in the instructional process,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. “We commend Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction and ADE for voluntarily agreeing to take significant steps to address the needs of Arizona’s ELL students.”

“This agreement highlights our commitment to ensuring that all ELL students receive the services they need to learn,” said Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education. “All students are entitled to equal opportunities, and this resolution will help to make sure Arizona students receive the education they deserve.”  

With the cooperation of ADE and Arizona school districts, the Departments of Justice and Education conducted an extensive investigation of the state’s ELL policies and programs, and determined that tens of thousands of ELL students had been misidentified as IFEPs or exited from ELL services without sufficient English proficiency in reading and writing, which is key to academic success. Because of this, the Departments found that ADE was in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) as well as the Equal Educational Opportunities Act. While ADE disagrees with OCR’s and DOJ’s findings of noncompliance, ADE entered into the agreement to voluntarily resolve the matter.

The enforcement of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act, which requires state and local education agencies to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede students’ equal participation in instructional programs, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination on the basis of race and national origin by schools that receive federal funds, are top priorities 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. Enforcement of Title VI is also a top priority of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.  Additional information about the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is available on its website at www.ed.gov/ocr.

Press Release Number: 
Updated August 10, 2015