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“All children in the United States are entitled to a basic public elementary and secondary education regardless of their race, color, national origin, citizenship, immigration status, or the status of their parents/guardians. School districts that either prohibit or discourage children from enrolling in schools because they or their parents/guardians are not U.S. citizens or are undocumented may be in violation of Federal law.” http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-factsheet-201101.pdf 
If you want to learn more about your rights and the rights of your child when enrolling in public school, or if you believe that a school district is violating Federal law, you may contact the following government agencies:
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Educational Opportunities Section
Telephone: (877) 292-3804 (toll-free) Fax: (202) 514-8337 Email: education@usdoj.gov
U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
Telephone: (800) 421-3481 Email: ocr@ed.gov
To fill out a complaint form online with the U.S. Department of Education, click here: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html. For additional information, click here: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201101.html.

English Learners in California - Frequently Asked Questions

The California Department of Education (CDE) has posted answers to frequently asked questions about English Learners (ELs) on its website. The complete document, written in English, is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/el/er/documents/elfaq.doc. The following are some of the questions and answers provided by CDE (as of August 21, 2006).

Who is identified as an EL?

An EL is a K-12 student who, based on objective assessment, has not developed listening, speaking, reading, and writing proficiencies in English sufficient for participation in the regular school program. These students are sometimes referred to as Limited English Proficient (LEP). The process for identification is described in the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) Assistance Packet for School Districts at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/el/resources.asp.

What is the program placement for ELs in California?

An English language classroom is the placement for ELs in California, unless a parental exception waiver is granted for an alternative program. There are two types of English language classrooms: Structured English Immersion (SEI) and English Language Mainstream. SEI classrooms are designed for students with less than “reasonable fluency”. An English language mainstream classroom is designed for students with “reasonable fluency” or a “good working knowledge of English”. Typically, ELs scoring at the beginning to intermediate levels on the CELDT are considered to have less than “reasonable fluency” (California Education Code [EC] Section 305).
An EL shall be transferred from a SEI classroom to an English language mainstream classroom when the pupil has acquired a reasonable level of English proficiency (EC 305). However, at any time, including during the school year, a parent or guardian may have his or her child moved into an English language mainstream classroom (California Code of Regulations [CCR], Title 5, section 11301).

Must all ELs be enrolled in an SEI program for one year?

ELs who lack reasonable fluency in English, as defined by the district, must be placed in a SEI program unless their parent/guardian requests placement in an English language mainstream classroom or is granted a parental exception waiver for an alternative program. Of course, all ELs must receive additional and appropriate educational services until they are reclassified (EC 305, CCR, Title 5, sections 11301 and 11302).

What does a parent need to do to have his/her child placed in an English language mainstream classroom?

The parent/guardian of an EL need only request this placement. This does not entail going through the waiver process. (CCR, Title 5, sections 11301[b]).

Is it mandatory to provide EL services to pupils whose parents do not want their children to receive those services?

Parents may request that their children be exempted from a specific instructional setting (CCR, Title 5, section 11301 (b)). However, districts still have an obligation to ensure that students receive English language development (ELD) and access to other core content areas from teachers who are qualified to provide such instruction (Castañeda v. Pickard, 1981).

What does a parent need to do to have his/her child placed in an alternative program [for example, some form of bilingual education]?

The parent/guardian may request a waiver to allow his/her child to participate in an alternative program following local district waiver procedures. The final decision to grant or deny the request lies with the principal and educational staff who must apply the standard found at CCR, Title 5, section 11309(b)(4) [“Parental exception waivers shall be granted unless the school principal and educational staff have determined that an alternative program . . . would not be better suited for the overall educational development of the pupil”.]

Are districts obligated to establish a parental exception waiver process?

Yes. School districts must establish procedures for granting parental exception waivers. These procedures must be approved by the local governing board. (CCR, Title 5, section 11309; EC 310 and 311)

What responsibilities do districts have to provide full access to grade-level core curriculum for ELs?

Districts must ensure that all students meet grade-level core curriculum standards within a reasonable amount of time. If a district chooses to emphasize ELD before full access to the core curriculum or if the student does not comprehend enough English to allow full access to the core curriculum, the district must develop and successfully implement a plan for ELs to recoup any and all academic deficits before the deficits become irreparable (CCR, Title 5, sections 11302[a] and [b]).

How long must districts provide services to ELs?

School districts are required to continue to provide additional and appropriate educational services to English learners until they have demonstrated English-language skills comparable to that of the district’s average native English-language speakers and have recouped any academic deficits which may have been incurred in other areas of the core curriculum (CCR, Title 5, section 11302). Services must continue until ELs meet objective reclassification criteria (EC 313). This means that EL students must be provided with ELD and SDAIE, as needed, and/or primary language instruction until they are redesignated as fluent English proficient (FEP).

Are schools still required to provide information to parents in their primary language?

Yes. When 15 percent or more of the pupils enrolled in the school speak a single primary language other than English, all notices, reports, statements, or records sent by the school or district to the parent/guardian of any such pupil must, in addition to being written in English, be written in such primary language, and may be responded to by the parent or guardian in English or in the primary language. In addition, federal law requires that schools and districts provide information in an understandable format and to the extent practicable in a language that is understandable to the parent, regardless of percentage of students that speak a language other than English (EC 48985; NCLB 1111[h][6][C] and 3302 [c]).
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