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Judge Rules State is Failing Non-English Speaking Students

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that the state is obligated to ensure that school districts follow state and federal laws and provide specialized instruction to thousands of students with a native language other than English.

Judge James Chalfant agreed with the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Public Counsel and the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP that California was failing to live up to its responsibility to ensure the delivery of meaningful educational support to

thousands of the state’s English-learner students.

Parents, students and a former administrator brought the lawsuit more than 18 months ago against the state, the state Board of Education, Superintendent Tom Torlakson and the California Department of Education for allegedly failing to provide students with a native language other than English receive specialized instructional services.

Proponents of such instruction say it enables English learners to overcome language barriers so they can access core classes such as math and science. They say it also increases the likelihood of testing at grade level by middle and high school.

Those students who receive no services are among the lowest performing and are more likely to drop out of school, according to proponents of the instruction.

“State educational officials had created a virtual caste system in which tens of thousands of children, nearly all of whom are U.S. citizens, were denied access to the bond of English language that unites us as Californians,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “Today marks an important civil rights leap forward for all students and all residents of the state.”