20,000 Students Sue California Officials

The plight of 20,000 students has prompted the ACLU to sue California officials, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday. The American Civil Liberties Union claims the state has failed in its obligation to provide sufficient assistance to students learning the English language.

Due in part to a substantial immigrant population, California currently estimates that one in four of its public school students are in need of English instruction. Federal and state laws mandate that schools ensure these students are adequately taught to speak, read, and write the language fluently in order to successfully succeed in other academic areas.

However, the ACLU claims that the state has failed to provide such teachings to roughly 20,000 students, prompting the organization to sue on their behalf.

“It is a blatant violation of the law not to provide these students the most basic and essential component of their education — language to access their classes,” explained Jessica Price, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California.

State schools are required to annually disclose the number of English learners currently enrolled. Schools must also account for the types of assistance given to further their language skills.

According to the ACLU, reports made to the California Department of Education in 2011 reflect that roughly 250 districts failed to provide either language services or help from educators to roughly 20,000 students in need.

Earlier this year, the ACLU issued a written notice to the state regarding the issue. The organization now claims that California officials failed to investigate or take appropriate action to remedy the situation. Price explained, “When districts report that this is happening, the state of California does absolutely nothing in response.”

While the ACLU was prompted to sue the state because of the 20,000 students identified in the district reports, the actual lawsuit was reportedly filed on behalf of six specific students and their guardians. The plaintiffs have chosen to remain anonymous, citing fear of retaliation.

Walt Dunlop, a former Oxnard Union High School District teacher, is also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. During his career, he often provided assistance for students learning English and has openly criticized the language programs available in his district.

“Over a lifetime as an educator, I’ve known English learner students who in despair have said to me about dropping out of school: ‘There’s nothing here for me Mr. Dunlop, nothing here for me.’ High school students crying during high stakes exams feeling that failure is imminent,” he explained following Wednesday’s lawsuit announcement.

Do you agree with the American Civil Liberties Union’s decision to sue the state of California on behalf of 20,000 students in need of English assistance?

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