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Justice Department Secures Settlement with Southern California School District to Protect the Civil Rights of English Learner Students

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement agreement with the Colton Joint Unified School District in California to resolve an investigation into the district’s program for students learning English. The department’s investigation, conducted jointly by the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, revealed that the district denied some English learner students the instruction they needed to become fluent in English and the necessary supports to fully participate and thrive in school.

“Students learning English have a right to receive an education equal to that of their classmates,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “School districts have an obligation to overcome language barriers and support English learners in participating fully in their schools’ academic programs. The Civil Rights Division is committed to ensuring that school districts across the nation comply with federal law and provide all students equal access to a quality education.”

“We are committed to giving English learners meaningful access to the education provided by their school districts,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California. “These students can learn English, develop critical skills, graduate and attend college, and then contribute to our shared society. But first they must have real access to the educational programs offered in their district. This settlement ensures that English-learner students have that access.”

The department’s investigation identified failures to ensure that all teachers were qualified to provide instruction in how to learn English, meaning that some students did not have access to the language services they needed to become fluent. Similarly, math, science and social studies teachers were often not qualified to support English learner students in their classrooms, depriving those students of an education on these essential subjects. In addition, the department found lapses in services to English learners with disabilities, as well as barriers to participation in the district’s gifted and talented program, among other issues.

Under the agreement, the district will work to ensure that all English learners receive instruction on the English language from a trained and qualified teacher. Similarly, the district will ensure that teachers instructing these learners on core subjects, like math, science and social studies, can provide the type of support necessary for those students to understand and learn the material. The department will monitor the district’s progress over the next three years.

The Spanish version of the press release is available here. The enforcement of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 is a top priority of the Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt, and additional information about the work of the Educational Opportunities Section is available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/educational-opportunities-section. Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at https://civilrights.justice.gov/report/.

Source: USDOJ