The ELC Protects Students Learning to Speak English
Kristina Moon and Maura McInerney – Oct 21, 2016 (for the Legal Intelligencer)
The Education Law Center’s (ELC’s) mission is to ensure access to a quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania. The ELC pursues this mission by advocating on behalf of the most at-risk students—children living in poverty, children of color, children in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, children with disabilities, LGBTQ students, English language learners, and children experiencing homelessness. The ELC addresses fairness in school funding, equal access, and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. The ELC is currently involved in two cases filed on behalf of English language learners referenced in this article.
“In America if you don’t get an education you’ll have a very hard life so it’s very important to get an education.
My objective [when I] came to America was to learn English … I still want to learn English.”
This is a translated trial testimony of named plaintiffs in Issa v. School District of Lancaster, 16-cv-3881 (E.D.Pa. 2016), a case brought by Education Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Pepper Hamilton challenging that district’s practice of requiring older immigrant English language learners to attend an alternative accelerated school and refusing to allow them access to their regular neighborhood high school. A preliminary injunction was granted by the district court this August directing the School District of Lancaster to permit all named plaintiffs to attend the regular high school. That decision is currently on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
The teenagers quoted above are among the nation’s five million English language learners or ELLs, also referred to as “limited English proficient” (LEP), many of whom struggle in different ways to receive equal access to learning in U.S. schools. Both are refugees who have been resettled in Pennsylvania, having fled conflicts in their native countries of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, respectively, seeking a better life in the United States.