Lawsuit claims state refuses to release data on English learners

Original article appeared in EdSource.

Two civil rights groups are suing the California Department of Education for refusing to release the number by individual school district – of English learner students who have not tested proficient in English after six years.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Public Counsel today filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court to force the department to release the documents.

California Department of Education officials declined to comment because they had yet to review the lawsuit, said Tina Jung, a department spokeswoman.

A 2012 state law requires the department to compile the statewide number of long-term English learners — those who have been in schools for six or more years and not tested proficient in English — and provide districts’ numbers directly to the districts.

In February, the civil rights groups filed a public records request to seek the numbers of long-term English learners in 26 school districts, including the state’s largest, Los Angeles Unified. But the department declined to release the documents, stating they may be exempt. The Lawyers’ Committee sent a second request, which was ignored, according to the lawsuit.

The civil rights groups wanted the information to help parent groups as they developed plans for English learners, said Travis Silva, an attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

“They are required to produce this information by statute,” Silva said. “By definition, it is public unless there is a legal reason they can justify withholding it and there’s not.”