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Know Your Rights: Language Equity

Learn more about the education rights of English Learner (EL) students in this article.

What steps should schools take to identify English Learner students?

Schools will ask parents to fill out a home language survey when students enroll in school. The survey asks if a language other than English is spoken at home, or if the student speaks a language other than English.

If so, a language test is given to measure a student’s ability to speak, read, write, and understand spoken English.

If the student is not yet strong in English, the student will be an English Learner (EL) until they have learned English well.

Are English Learners entitled to special education services?

Yes. EL students should receive additional services above basic classes at school. Services include things like extra learning time, tutoring, better trained teachers, and services to help the student’s family help the child to learn at home.

Can students be recognized for learning two languages?

Yes, students have the right to work towards and receive the State Seal of Biliteracy in recognition of their high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more languages in addition to English.

What education rights do English Learner (EL) students have?

  • The right to equal participation and access to school.
  • The right to learn English with qualified teachers, support staff, and good educational materials through an approved program.
  • The right to an education that allows the student to:
    • Overcome language barriers in a timely manner to keep up with non-EL students in the core curriculum
    • Participate in all parts of the school’s curriculum WITHOUT using simplified materials
    • To be reclassified as student who knows English, when it’s time
  • The right to participate in school programs, including:
    • Common core curriculum
    • A-G college readiness courses
    • Athletics
    • AP courses

Should ELs be in the same class as non-EL students?

Schools should not keep EL students in separate EL classes longer than required for the student to learn English well.

What rights do parents who use a language other than English have?

  • Meaningful communication from the school in a language the parent can understand through free translated materials and interpreters.
  • The same notice of programs, services and activities that are given to parents who speak English
  • Qualified, trained interpreters. Bilingual staff, friends, students or family are not sufficient.
  • The right to ask the school to provide bilingual education program for their child

Can I impact school funding for EL students?

Yes, parents and students are entitled to have a voice in how school funds are spent to help EL students. This is known as the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) process.

English Learner Students with a Disability

Schools should evaluate students for disabilities in a way that language is NOT a barrier to accurate assessment.

Parents of EL Students with a Disability

Parents who use a language other than English should have a voice in school decisions that impact a child who has a disability. Parents should receive free translated materials and interpretation when creating a plan to help a child with a disability succeed in school.

Want more information? Download our Education Manual: A Basic Guide to Students' Rights for Parents and Advocates.


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