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California Judge Says State Failed Thousands of English-Learners

California education officials failed to ensure that thousands of students received English-language instruction as required by state and federal law, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled late Tuesday afternoon.

Siding with the ACLU of Southern California, which sued on behalf of three students who are English-language learners, Judge James Chalfant agreed with the plaintiffs that state education officials, including schools chief Tom Torlakson, were responsible for about 20,000 ELLs who did not receive adequate English-language acquisition services in their public schools. (Read Judge Chalfant's ruling.)

The ACLU and other civil rights groups in California used state department of education data to argue that 251 school districts had denied English-language instruction to identified ELLs and that state education officials neglected their obligation to monitor those districts.

According to the Associated Press, Chalfant said in his ruling that "this is a case where there can't be any English-learner who didn't get instruction. There's evidence that the state has to take action."

California has more than 1,000 school districts and its public schools enroll more than 1.4 million ELLs, about one quarter of the state's K-12 population.

Last month, civil rights officials in the U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief supporting ACLU's complaint against the state.

A request for comment from the state department of education was not immediately available.

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