Guidance regarding English learner students equal access to high-quality education

January 12, 2015
Legal update

Last week, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education (OCR) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a joint guidance reminding state education agencies, school districts, and public schools of their obligations to ensure English learner (EL) students have equal access to a high-quality education, as well as the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential. 

This guidance comes 40 years after Lau v. Nichols and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA). In Lau, the Supreme Court held public schools must take affirmative steps to ensure students with limited English proficiency can meaningfully participate in educational programs and services.  The EEOA requires that state education agencies overcome language barriers that affect equal participation by EL students in school.

The joint guidance provides an outline of EL program requirements that school districts must comply with, including:

What You Need To Do:  The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is focused on enforcing the EEOA and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in order to ensure EL students and limited English proficient parents receive the services to which they are entitled.  State education agencies, school districts, and public schools should review their current EL programs to verify compliance with the joint guidance.  Frost Brown Todd LLC can help you comply with the requirements outlined in this Advisory. Please contact any attorney in the Government Services Practice Group to answer any questions you have concerning this Advisory.