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ACLU Sues in L.A. Over English Instruction in Schools

Activist organizations sued the state of California Wednesday, alleging English-language instruction is woefully inadequate for thousands of Southland students.

The civil rights complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and other groups, demands that English-language classes be provided in the Los Angeles and Compton unified school districts and elsewhere in compliance with state and federal law.

The suit is the first of its kind in California, where one out of every four students has been identified as an “English learner,” according to the ACLU/SC.

“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,” said Jessica Price, staff attorney with the ACLU/SC. “When districts report that this is happening, the state of California does

absolutely nothing in response.”

A call to a Department of Education representative for comment after regular business hours was not immediately returned.

According to the plaintiffs, about 4,000 of LAUSD’s almost 195,000 EL students receive no English-language instruction, while Compton Unified provides no services to nearly 1,700 of its EL students.

The lack of instruction violates legal mandates, according to the lawsuit. Additionally, studies show that EL students who are denied language classes are more likely to fail or drop out of school, the suit states.

The complaint — which names as defendants the state of California, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the California Board of Education and the state Department of Education — alleges that without attending to “oral and written English fluency, students cannot comprehend what happens in the classroom, let alone master the core curriculum that the

state of California has mandated for all students.”

For example, one of six students who are plaintiffs in the suit was allegedly denied English-language services in third grade, failed most of his classes and ultimately was kept behind.

The next year, the Compton student, who asked to remain anonymous, was provided English language classes and finally showed progress, according to the ACLU/SC.