Dinuba School District settles lawsuit over English learners
August 16, 2012
• Says deal will save it an expensive court battle
• ‘We can now return our focus to the classroom’
The Dinuba Unified School District in the Central Valley says it has settled a lawsuit over how it teaches students who are not fluent in English, roughly six of every ten.
The school district has agreed to transition away from its existing program and retain the services of English language development consultants to recommend instructional strategies, professional development, and curriculum. Under the settlement, the District will continue to provide targeted academic programs and resources, as well as teacher training and development.
By settling out of court, the school district says it saved taxpayers “significant” funding that would have resulted from a protracted legal fight with the ACLU and other organizations.
Earlier this year, teachers, parents, and students filed suit against the school district, the State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, and the State Board of Education, challenging the philosophy of the District’s pilot English Learner Program, which placed an emphasis on developing grammar skills.
The District says it had already formed a teacher-based committee to recommend improvements to the program, and proposals were headed to the School Board for adoption when plaintiffs brought the suit.
“People can always fight about philosophy, but we know the real factors in the success of our students are the quality of our teachers and the resources we can devote to them,” says Superintendent Joe Hernandez. “Instead of an expensive fight in the courtroom, we can now return our focus to the classroom.”
“I’m pleased the district is going to make sure all our kids have the same opportunities for the education they deserve,” says Annie Ogata, a teacher in the district who also has children in the Dinuba schools and who was a named plaintiff in the lawsuit.
In 2007, the District adopted a pilot program to improve outcomes for its English learners in response to being placed in “Program Improvement,” an undesirable label for California schools by the State Department of Education, for not making adequate yearly progress on standardized tests as required under federal law.
The plaintiffs were represented by the ACLU of Southern California, the ACLU of Northern California, the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, California Rural Legal Assistance Inc., the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
The lawsuit asked the school district to stop using a program called Second Language Acquisition Development Instruction (SLADI), implemented in 2009, to teach reading to first and second grade English learners. The lawsuit alleged that SLADI was a fundamentally flawed and unproven method of teaching English.