Washington Today, the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, (DOJ) and the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, (OCR) reached a settlement agreement with the Boston School Committee, the governing body of the Boston Public Schools, and its superintendent. While conducting a joint investigation, DOJ and OCR determined that, since 2003, the Boston Public Schools had failed to properly identify and adequately serve thousands of English Language Learner (ELL) students as required by the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
With the cooperation of the Boston Public Schools, the departments conducted an extensive examination of Boston Public Schools' policies and practices, including site visits to schools. The settlement agreement will ensure that the ELL students who attend Boston Public Schools will no longer be denied language support services based on a system that did not accurately assess or provide for their language needs.
The two serious issues of unidentified ELL students and misidentified "opt outs" date back to 2003. The current superintendent, who joined the district in August 2007, agreed to resolve these longstanding issues by signing the settlement agreement. As a result of the agreement, more than 4,000 students who were inappropriately characterized as having "opted out" of ELL services will now have ELL and compensatory services made available to them. In addition, approximately 4,300 students who were improperly identified as non-ELL students, will, for the first time, be offered ELL services.
In the settlement, the Boston Public Schools agreed to assess the English proficiency of an estimated 7,000 students who were not previously tested in all four language domains of listening, speaking, reading and writing, and to ensure that all potential ELL students are properly identified and accurately assessed in the 2010-11 school year. In order to serve its ELL population, the Boston Public Schools agreed to provide ELL students with Sheltered English Immersion in their core content classes, such as math, social studies and science; to deliver English as a Second Language instruction consistent with state guidance; and to train and hire a sufficient number of teachers to serve its ELL population. The Boston Public Schools also will ensure that special education ELL students are properly assessed and served to address their unique needs. In addition, the Boston Public Schools agreed to monitor the academic performance of current and former ELL students; to offer compensatory services to the ELL students who were recently identified and formerly misidentified as "opt outs;" and to give the parents of those students the information they need to make informed decisions regarding the ELL services their children receive.
"All English Language Learner students deserve a quality education free from discrimination that will help them prepare for success in life," said Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for OCR. "Today, we applaud the decision of the Boston School Committee to enter into an agreement with OCR and DOJ that will have a direct and immediate impact on the meaningful participation in educational programs of thousands of ELL students in Boston's public schools. OCR and the DOJ will continue to work together to ensure that all ELL students across this country receive the educational services to which they are entitled under our laws."
"All students who are not proficient in English are entitled to language acquisition services to overcome language barriers that impede their equal and meaningful participation in educational programs," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Success in this nation necessitates these services, and the Justice Department and Office for Civil Rights will continue to work cooperatively with the Boston Public Schools and its superintendent to ensure that all of its English Language Learner students are afforded the services to which they are entitled."
The enforcement of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act and Title VI are top priorities of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt. Enforcement of Title VI is also a top priority of Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. Additional information about the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is available on its website at www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html.