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Friday, September 9, 2016

Justice Department Reaches Settlement with California to Ensure Equal Educational Opportunities for English Learners

The Justice Department reached a comprehensive settlement agreement today with the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California State Board of Education to improve their compliance monitoring systems and ensure language instruction services to the approximately 1.4 million English Learner (EL) students in the state’s public schools. 

The settlement resolves the department’s May 2015 findings that California’s system for monitoring its public schools’ provision of language services to EL students did not satisfy the state’s obligations under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) of 1974.  The state cooperated fully during the review.

The department concluded that the state had failed to respond appropriately to schools’ certified reports showing that over 20,000 EL students were not receiving instructional language services each school year since 2007 to 2008.  The two-year agreement requires the state to undertake several actions, including:

  • respond in a timely and effective manner to credible evidence that schools are failing to serve EL students, including notifying them of violations and providing a protocol by which they must submit to CDE documented evidence that resolves the violations;
  • when selecting schools for monitoring reviews, consider their reports of unserved EL students and include charter schools in the selection process for such reviews each year;
  • improve CDE’s online monitoring tool and require that schools found to be out of compliance with specific requirements in this online tool receive onsite monitoring if they fail to provide adequate evidence that the noncompliance has been resolved; and
  • develop and implement policies and training on the monitoring, review and corrective action processes of CDE’s monitoring of schools for EL service violations, and ensure that all EL monitoring consultants receive such training.

“We applaud the state of California for working cooperatively with the Justice Department to ensure that all English Learner students can access the language services they need to learn,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “We look forward to working with state officials to implement this important agreement and ensure full compliance in the months ahead.”

The agreement addresses many of the legal principles discussed in the United States’ statement of interest filed in July 2014 in a related private EEOA case in state court, D.J. v. State of California.  The state case resulted in a private settlement whose obligations are unaffected by the agreement reached today between the department and the state.

The EEOA requires state and local education agencies to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede students’ equal participation in instructional programs.  Enforcement of the EEOA is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.

California EL Settlement Agreement

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 
Updated September 9, 2016