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Resolution Reached in Los Angeles District Civil Rights Probe

By guest blogger Katie Ash

The Los Angeles Unified School District and the U.S. Office of Civil Rights on Oct. 11 announced steps aimed at providing adequate support for English-language learners in the district, as well as more resources—such as computers and library books—for African-American students.

The announcement resolves an investigation begun in March 2010 by the civil rights office into the services provided to ELLs by the Los Angeles Unified School District. The inquiry was later expanded to investigate resource comparability for African-American students.

Under the resolution, the district is charged with creating a new master plan for English-learner services that details the goals for students in English-language classes, as well as how the program, to be put into place during the 2012-13 school year, is to be implemented and evaluated.

The new plan is intended to ensure that all students, including English-learners, African-American students, and special education students, will have equal access to the core curriculum they need to be on track to graduate, with materials targeted to their level of English proficiency. It will also include a component that will specifically target the language needs of African-American students, starting in elementary school.

"This resolution is specific to Los Angeles, so it is designed to meet the needs of students [in this district]," said Russlynn H. Ali, the assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, in a conference call from Los Angeles with reporters. The resolution is intended to be "a model for the country and will have great impact that exceeds the borders of Los Angeles," she said.

Under the resolution, LAUSD will put together a comprehensive, district-wide plan to assuage disproportionate participation of African-American and Hispanic students in the district's gifted and talented education, or GATE, program. Schools that currently fall into that category will immediately implement steps to identify students eligible for GATE by providing more professional development around identifying gifted students, as well as informational meetings for parents and guardians of students in the affected schools.

Funding also is being set aside to purchase more technology and library resources to achieve comparable resources among all schools in the district. In addition, the district will re-evaluate its disciplinary policies and procedures in light of what the department said is a disproportionate number of African-American students disciplined.

After the plan is finalized and approved by both the LAUSD and the OCR, the district will be responsible for providing professional development districtwide to help implement the plan. The OCR will oversee the monitoring of the resolution.

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