Limited English Proficient Students
A number of state and federal legal authorities have established the educational rights of students with limited English proficiency (LEP). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. In 1974, the United States Supreme Court, in the Lau v. Nichols decision, reaffirmed that LEP students had the right to equal educational opportunities.
On March 21, 1979 the Federal Office for Civil Rights issued its Guidelines for Eliminating Discrimination and Denial of Services on the Basis of Race, Color, National Origin, Sex and Handicap in Vocational Education. These Guidelines set forth the way in which all educational agencies operating vocational education programs and receiving federal financial assistance must comply with federal law. As part of the requirements of the Guidelines, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) has agreed to assist educational agencies meet their civil rights responsibilities with respect to vocational/career and technical education.
In addition to the federal authorities, Part 154 of Commissioner’s Regulations of the State Education Department (SED) identifies state requirements concerning the education of LEP students.
Educational agencies must comply with the following requirements:
- If any agency’s service area has a community of persons with limited English proficiency, it must supply that community with promotional materials and information about programs, services, and financial assistance in its native language;
- The agency may not discriminate in its admission practices against persons on the basis of their limited English language skills. Applicants with limited English proficiency shall be identified and evaluated by the use of an English language assessment approved by the Commissioner in order to fully participate in vocational/career and technical education;
- A student’s proficiency in the English language shall be measured, at least annually, to determine further participation in a program of bilingual education and/or English as a second language. A student’s eligibility for such instruction shall continue until the student achieves a level of English language skills enabling him/her to perform successfully in classes in which instruction is given only in English;
- An agency must employ counselors and/or provide interpreters who are able to communicate effectively with students identified as having limited English proficiency;
- An agency must ensure that instruction to meet the educational needs of LEP pupils is provided by personnel holding the appropriate certification(s);
- An educational agency, under Part 154 of the Commissioner’s Regulations, having twenty or more students with limited English proficiency of the same grade level, all of whom have the same native language other than English, shall provide such students with bilingual education programs, including instruction in English as a second language.
- An educational agency, under part 154 of the Commissioner’s Regulations, having less than twenty students with limited English proficiency of the same grade level and native language, shall provide a program of English as a second language and may also provide a program of bilingual education to such pupils.
Agencies entitled to funds under Part 154 of the Commissioner’s Regulations should submit to SED a district plan to meet the educational needs of students with limited English proficiency. The plan should:
- Specify the instructional services to be provided
- Provide for the coordination of local, state and federal funds
- Provide evidence that instruction is provided by personnel holding the approved certification, and ;
- Provide any other information required by the Commissioner relative to the planning, administration, funding or evaluation of the program.
To enhance awareness and understanding of LEP students, agencies involved in the development and/or administration of vocational education programs should consider the following recommendations to meet the requirements of federal legislation and the Commissioner’s Regulations:
- Obtain statistics on the number of persons with limited English proficiency in the district or service area and language(s) spoken to determine whether or not a limited English proficient population exists;
- Obtain statistics on age distribution, economic profile, employment patterns, and educational levels to acquire a better understanding of the cultural values and attitudes among LEP groups;
- Identify the number of LEP students enrolled in vocational/career and technical education programs and assess their abilities so they will benefit from these programs to the same extent as students whose primary language is English;
- Identify instructional services to be provided for limited English proficient students in vocational/career and technical education programs;
- Develop nondiscriminatory recruitment and promotional activities such as: disseminating bilingual promotional materials and information on financial assistance for parents/legal guardians and students; advertising in bilingual community newspapers and on radio programs; developing relations with social service agencies for referral; enlisting bilingual community support; and hiring bilingual/bicultural personnel;
- Review program admissions criteria that may screen out and prevent LEP students from full participation in vocational/career and technical education programs;
- Modify guidance and counseling services to meet the needs of LEP students by employing bilingual counselors and/or providing interpreters who are able to effectively communicate with such students and their parents/guardians; providing in-service programs to counselors, including programs on bicultural techniques and limited English proficient needs; and by employing bilingual instructors and/or aides;
- Acquire or develop special English, bilingual, and/or English-as-a-second-language vocational/career and technical education program materials;
- Involve limited English proficient families in agency functions, e.g., special meetings, bilingual meetings, parent education; and,
- Involve bilingual community members in the planning, development, and implementation of any programs, services, and activities developed to meet the needs of limited English proficient students; employ a bilingual district/community liaison person.