Rights for Parents of ELL Students
Northwest Missouri State University
One legal issue related to ELL education is the rights of parents. The main concern for this issue is the parent’s choice of not having their child enrolled in the ELL program the school has in place and parents’ rights for inadequate ELL services. This paper looks at court cases, school policies, and federal laws that relate to students being placed in an ELL program without the consultation or input from their parents. Some people believe schools are overzealous when placing students in ELL programs. Parents feel that oftentimes, schools are discriminating their child by placing them in ELL programs based on their child speaking another language at home and not based on the level of English proficiency. If a parent is not happy with the ELL program that is implemented in their district they have rights to file complaints with the Office of Civil Right, or sue the district based on the Equal Education Opportunities Act or Title VI.
Rights for Parents of ELL Students Many schools use a home-language survey when assessing to see if a student should be enrolled in the school’s ELL program. Students who speak a language other than English at home will be tested to see if they qualify for ELL services. Once students take a language assessment the school will use the test results to see if an intervention needs to be implemented. Students are evaluated yearly with language assessments to assess the growth the student has made. Once students score high enough on the assessment they will be released from the ELL program. A legal issue related to ELL that deals with these placement procedures is that parents feel their children are being discriminated against based on these home-language surveys and the placement of their students in the ELL program. Once a student qualifies for placement in the ELL program parents don’t have much of a choice for their student being enrolled in the ELL course and program.
Parent’s Choice for ELL Placement States differ on whether or not they allow parents to remove a student from ELL courses who has been identified as an English Language Learner. The No Child Left Behind Act states that parents can, “remove their children from special English classes, but it also says that states' laws on the matter take precedence over the federal law.” (Zehr, 2010a) There are only a few states that allow parents to waive ELL course or program enrollment. A few of the states that allow parents to waive the special instruction are Arizona, California, Iowa and Texas. The No Child Left Behind Act also requires school districts to assess ELL students each year with an English proficiency test, but whether or not the district honors the parent’s demand to not give the test varies. (Zehr, 2010a) The argument surrounding this issue stems from the home-survey that parents fill out. Parents may identify a language other than English is being spoken at home. From this home-survey schools will identify that student as an English language learner or as an English as a Second Language student. Parents are getting upset because they feel that student’s are being discriminated against for speaking another language at home while still using English as their dominant language. A case from Florida was discussed in the article by Zehr (2012a) of a boy who had taken home a language survey from school. His mother identified that a language other than English was spoken at home. The boy was then given an English screening test, which he did not pass. From the screening test the boy was labeled as an ELL student. The boy will have to show he is proficient in English on a screening test before the label can be removed. The mother of the boy said that she was upset about not being informed about what the survey was used for and that the school will not pull her son from the program. Another case that