A suburban Detroit school district reaches an out-of-court settlement with the Justice Dept. over allegations that it did not provide adequate instruction for English Language Learners (ELLs) and then retaliated against staffers who blew the whistle on the problems.
The 3,350-student Crestwood School District agreed to improve ELL instruction, do a better job at outreach to the local Arab-American community and stop employee discrimination. The district is one of four school districts that serve the city of Dearborn Heights, a western suburb of Detroit.
DOJ launched an investigation in 2011 after it received a letter about the lapses of ELL instruction within the district. The district signed the out-of-court agreement before DOJ could take criminal or civil enforcement actions for potential violations of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act, says Molly Moran, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.
Most of the ELL students in the district are native Arabic speakers. The investigation found the district failed to provide adequate services and materials for ELL students, employed an insufficient number of qualified teachers (the ELL student-to-teacher ration is 65-1) and administrators and did not monitor and evaluate its ELL program effectively. In addition, the department found significant shortfalls in the district’s communications with Limited English proficient (LEP) parents. Lastly, the department looked into allegations of employment discrimination in the hiring of Arab-American and African-American teachers and claims that individuals who said they were subject to retaliation in violation of the EEOA.
The district agreed to:
- Provide all ELL students, including students with disabilities, with appropriate English as a Second Language (ESL) and sheltered content instruction taught by teachers who are properly qualified and trained;
- Develop a kindergarten through-12th grade ESL curriculum and conduct a comprehensive inventory of the instructional;
- Provide ELL students and LEP parents with meaningful access to important information, including discipline and special education materials and procedures; and
- Institute internal complaint processes and designate and train employees to investigate and resolve allegations of employment discrimination and/or retaliation.
“All students, regardless of their proficiency in English, deserve the opportunity to succeed and thrive in school,” Moran says. “This agreement will eliminate barriers that obstruct the path to success for English language learners in the Crestwood schools.”
The agreement will be in place for four years.