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English Language Learner Laws & Policies

Federal Law and Policy:

 

Every Student Succeeds Act (2015)

English Language Education California Ed Code 305

English Language Education California Ed Code 306

 

Equal Educational Opportunities Act (1974)

The Equal Educational Opportunities Act makes educational institutions responsible for taking the necessary steps to overcome linguistic and/or cultural barriers that keep students from equal participation in instructional programs. Specifically ". . . No State shall deny equal educational opportunity to an individual on account of his or her race, color, sex or national origin, by . . . the failure of an educational agency to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation by its students in its instructional programs . . ."
 

Civil Rights Act, Title VI (1964)

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 declares that “. . . No person in the United States shall, on the grounds of race, color or national origin . . . be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
 
 

Constitution of the United States, Fourteenth Amendment (1868)

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees that ". . . No State shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." 
 

Supreme Court Decisions

In addition to the Federal laws, the following select court rulings further define the rights of English Learners:

Castañeda v. Pickard (Texas, 1981)

While Lau was important in the development of the legal basis to defend the rights of English Learners, Castañeda has a special relevance, since it provided—and still provides — important criteria for determining a school’s degree of compliance with the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974.
 
In the Castañeda suit, parents of Mexican American children charged the Raymondville Independent School District (Texas) with instructional practices that violated their children’s rights. Those practices included “ability tracking” of students on the basis of discriminatory criteria that caused the segregation of Hispanic students; discriminating against Mexican Americans in the recruitment and hiring of school personnel; and failing to develop bilingual programs that facilitated learning by language minority students.
 
Reversing an initial District Court finding, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Mexican American plaintiffs. It then went on to formulate a test to determine school district compliance with the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (1974). Compliance requires the satisfaction of three criteria:
 
  1. Theory: The school must pursue a program based on an educational theory recognized as sound or, at least, as a legitimate experimental strategy
  2. Practice: The school must actually implement the program with instructional practices, resources, and personnel necessary to transfer theory into reality
  3. Results: The school must not persist in a program that fails to produce results

It is significant to note that, while the Castañeda ruling was handed down in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals—whose jurisdiction includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi—the Castañeda test has been applied in a number of different states, including California.

 

Lau v. Nichols (1974)

In Lau v. Nichols (1974), the United States Supreme Court held that San Francisco’s failure to provide supplemental English language instruction to 1,800 students of Chinese ancestry violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (42 USC, Section 2000d).
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court declared that equality of educational opportunity for students who do not understand English requires that they not only have access to "the same facilities, textbooks, teachers and curriculum. . ." but also requires that they have access to learn the English language. Regardless of other factors, the Court found that ". . . students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education" when their opportunities to learn are limited to exposure to instruction in a language they do not understand.
 
Lau also establishes a district's obligation to provide English Learners with meaningful access to the educational program. When a parent declines participation in a particular formal language instruction program, the district must continue to ensure that the student has an equal opportunity to have his or her English language and academic needs met.
Because the District also operates under the Lau Consent Decree, which is the result of the District's settlement, our alternate program options must include immediate access to bilingual, bicultural programs in the major languages of students in the District. Currently, the parents of all English Learners in the District complete forms indicating their program choice. 
 

State Law and Policy:

 

California English Learner Roadmap (2017)

California Education for a Global Economy Initiative (2016)

Long-term English Learners (2012)