Updated at 4 p.m. Jan. 24, 2013
On Thursday, the Grossmont Union High School District labeled the ACLU letter a “false report” and blamed the state Department of Education for a data reporting error that led to accusations concerning the district.
The La Mesa-based Grossmont Union High School District is being touted as a poster child for districts failing to serve students whose native language is not English.
Two activist organizations threatened Wednesday to sue state educators unless English-language instruction is substantially improved for thousands of students they contend are being underserved in the 11-campus Grossmont district and others.
“Fremont Union High School District and Grossmont Union High School District each reported that half of their [English learner] population—representing hundreds of EL students—received no specialized language support whatsoever” said a letter to state education officials signed by Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of ACLU of Southern California.
The groups requested a formal response from Torlakson and the Board of Education within 30 days.
The American Civil Liberties Union of California and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center sent the letter to Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and members of the state Board of Education, demanding that English-language classes be provided in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Grossmont district and elsewhere in compliance with state and federal law.
“Each additional day an EL child goes without language instructional services is another day that child is effectively foreclosed from a meaningful education,” said Jessica Price, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California.
“The children who are neglected today, in schools with no EL services, become the long-term English learners of tomorrow, sometimes struggling their entire school careers without anyone stepping in to make sure they have the tools to learn.”
The organizations also issued a report [attached as PDF] detailing what they consider inaction on the part of state educators.
The California Department of Education, however, insisted that nearly every student requiring EL services is being taken care of.
“Despite the enormous financial strains of recent years, California has made dramatic progress in seeing that all English learners receive appropriate instruction and services,” said Karen Cadiero-Kaplan, director of the agency’s English Learner Support Division.
“School districts—which are responsible for providing instruction to students and appropriate services to English learners—currently report that more than 98 percent of the state’s 1.4 million English learners are receiving services,” she said.
—City News Service contributed to this report.