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English Learners' Rights to Educational Access

Special Education & Accommodations

Limited English proficiency poses a barrier to education. The Department of Education and the Department of Justice are supposed to coordinate to lessen the impact of that obstacle.

Children learning English need proper tools to excel. Quality programming, trained teachers, and special resources position them to master English. Here, learn how federal law protects children's right to education on their level, in their language, and considering any potential disabilities. 

How does the government help students who struggle in school because of their limited English?

The U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice cooperate to make sure children can participate “meaningfully and equally” in education programs. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 require schools to teach students in the language they understand and to provide an effective strategy to keep improving their English fluency.

How does federal law individualize the effort to help students struggling to learn English?

All 50 states must obey federal laws. Each student has the right to education, assistance, and resources in their language. At the beginning of the school year, parents fill out a language survey which helps the school to see how many children may need language assistance.

The school will test your child’s English language proficiency level in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Then, they notify you of the results in writing within 30 days. The school will also discuss programs and services and your right to opt in or out.

Do the laws set rules about the quality of the programming the children receive?

Yes. Students have a right to learn from highly trained teachers with sufficient resources and support staff.

What organization manages the multilingual education of Texas students?

TheTexas Education Agency (TEA)oversees schools to be sure they offer programs that are sound in theory and effective in practice.

What types of language programs does the Texas Education Agency (TEA) approve for state schools?

Three types of programs are used in Texas schools:

  • English as a Second Language: Students fluent in one language focus on learning the new language.
  • Transitional Bilingual Education: Teachers use the native language to help the students learn the new language.  
  • Dual language immersion: Students balance learning in both the native language and the new language.

Do English learning students have the same access to regular and extracurricular programs?

Yes. English learning students have the same right to participate in all school programs including:

  • pre-kindergarten
  • gifted and talented
  • career
  • technical

How does the TEA measure the success of language programs in each district?

Districts measure success by testing the students for proficiency and meaningful participation with their native speaker peers. Each district uses the test results to measure the effectiveness of the programs and to improve the services offered.

What happens to my child if I opt out of services before they begin?

Parents who opt out will sign paperwork to say they were offered help, but they decided not to take it. Then, the school monitors the child’s progress, and will offer help again if the student keeps struggling.

What happens if I want my child to stop the program services after they begin?

There is a process to exit the program once services begin.  The school will honor the parent’s request to begin the process, but the exit can’t be completed until the student meets the standards for listening, speaking, reading and writing.  

Are students in language programs segregated or singled out?

It is illegal to single someone out only because of their race or national origin. For educational purposes, students are temporarily grouped together in order to receive the services they need to improve their English.

How do schools protect children from being labeled as having a disability only because they speak limited English?

Language survey and teacher observations help schools understand which students might need help. Next, schools test students in their native language to see what grade level they are on without English as a challenge. Then, if the test in their native language still shows the student may have a disability, they will test for that too.

What if my child has limited English and a disability?

Both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act  (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 make sure that your child has a right to get the help they need. Schools will test for limited English and any potential disability. Then, they will put together a special plan to support your child in learning English according to their disability.

Do I have a right to receive school information in a language I can understand?

Yes. School information sent to parents about programs, services, and activities must be in English and other languages as needed. The school can supply an interpreter or translated materials.

This includes paperwork about:

  • enrollment in public, magnet, and charter schools
  • grievances
  • student and parent handbooks
  • programs
  • activities
  • report cards
  • notices of nondiscrimination
  • conferences, meetings, and services

My child speaks English, but I don’t. Can I request an interpreter?

Of course. Schools understand that parents and students may speak different amounts of English. So, they are prepared to offer ways to make communication as easy as possible.

Is the school allowed to ask children, other students, or untrained school staff able to interpret for me?

No. Schools can only request translation or interpretation from trained individuals and staff.

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