LOS ANGELES – Last year, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Public Counsel and the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP filed a lawsuit challenging the State of California and state educational officials’ failure to ensure that school districts provide language instruction to tens of thousands of English learners across California.

Now, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has filed a brief in support of the lawsuit, concluding that state education officials’ failure to act when school districts across the state report that they are not addressing the language needs of all students violates the landmark Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974.

The Justice Department’s action is yet another reminder of state education officials’ glaring failure to do their job properly, despite repeated efforts to address these fundamental issues, and underscores the need for urgent action to address the needs of the state’s English learners.

Last year, for example, the ACLU sent a letter asking state education officials to take action in response to the state’s own data and a report documenting that 251 California school districts reported to the state that they failed to provide legally mandated instruction to EL students.  California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, his Department of Education, and the State Board of Education did nothing in response.  In fact, their only response was to change the reporting system to prevent districts from reporting this information in the future.

“The wholesale failure of the State of California to take any steps to ensure delivery of English instructional services to English learners upon receipt of these reports is among the most serious civil rights violations yet recorded in the forty year history of the Equal Educational Opportunity Act enacted by Congress specifically to ensure that all English learners receive basic instruction in English in order to gain access to states’ core curricula,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for ACLU SoCal.

“Even worse, in the face of the litigation and a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of CDE practices, the only thing that Superintendent Torlakson and his Department have done is try to kill the messenger and bury the evidence,” said Rosenbaum.

The lawsuit, which names the State of California, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the State Board of Education, and the California Department of Education as respondents is DJ v. State of California. The case is scheduled for trial on July 31, 2014 in Department 85 of Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Download DOJ's Statement of Interest (.pdf)

Find resources and learn more about the case: https://www.aclusocal.org/englishlearners


Anurima Bharghava, chief of Educational Opportunities Section, Civil Rights Division,  Department of Justice or Dena Iverson, communications officer, Department of Justice, 202.514 8392

Sandra Hernandez, communications director at ACLU SoCal, 213.977.5252