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Number of ed civil rights complaints on the rise

Associated Press | 10/20/2010, 4:22 a.m.

Ali said that in some cases, administrators do not know they are discriminating.

“There’s not a superintendent or a school official or a teacher that I’ve met anywhere that says I go to work every day wanting to violate students civil rights,” Ali said. “The problem is in far too many cases they actually don’t understand what their responsibilities are.”

In Boston, the Department of Justice and the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights investigated the treatment of English language learners, and found that thousands of students who qualified for specialized instruction guaranteed under federal law were not receiving it. As a result of a settlement, 4,300 students who were improperly identified as non-English language learners will be offered language services.    

The Boston School Committee, which oversees the city’s public schools, also agreed to hire qualified language teachers, monitor the performance of ELL students and give parents the information they need to make informed decisions.

Under federal law, English language learners must be provided with alternative services until they are proficient enough in English to participate meaningfully in mainstream classes.

That is the subject of one of a dozen compliance reviews regarding English language learners currently under way.

In Los Angeles, studies have shown that the majority of limited English students were born in the United States, and that nearly 30 percent aren’t placed in regular classes by the time they finish middle school.

“Far too many students languish, it appears, as English language learners for 10 years or more,” Ali said.

In Alabama, 10 districts are under investigation to determine whether or not students with disabilities are being discriminated against by having a shortened school day based on transportation schedules.

Three institutions of higher education are also under review, including Ohio State University, where authorities will examine the school’s response to incidents of sexual violence involving students on campus.

Associated Press writer Dorie Turner in Atlanta contributed to this report