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Florida school district agrees to improve instruction for students who don't speak English

By AP | Oct 31, 2023

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) — A north Florida school district has agreed to improve the way it teaches English to students who don’t speak the language, federal officials announced Monday.

The Clay County School District and the U.S. Justice Department reached a settlement after federal investigators found that the district failed to provide English learner students with the language instruction needed to become fluent in English and failed to provide parents who don’t speak English with important school information in a language they could understand. The Justice Department also determined that English learner students could not meaningfully participate in many of their classes and didn’t receive appropriate individualized academic and behavioral supports.

“School districts must provide English learner students with appropriate services to overcome language barriers,” U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Roger Handberg said in a statement. “We are pleased that the Clay County School District has agreed to embrace its obligation to meet the language needs of its English learners so that students can learn English and fully participate in the district’s educational experience.”

The district cooperated fully with the department’s investigation and, after receiving the results of the investigation, committed to improving its services for English learner students, federal officials said.

The district, located southwest of Jacksonville, said in a statement that it was first contacted in 2019 about issues regarding support services for English Speakers of Other Languages. The statement said the district is continuing to work at ensuring teachers are certified and trained in strategies to support students.

“Our current program has been approved by the state of Florida, and the District stands prepared to continue building upon the success of our current English Learner Program and expand the program through the implementation of additional coaching and support,” the statement said.

Under the agreement, the district will modify its practices so that English learner students are properly assessed and identified, promptly provided with language services and have the opportunity to equally benefit from academic and behavioral supports.

The district will also make certain that all teachers are qualified, trained and provided enough support and resources to help English learner students become fluent in English and understand courses. The district will also provide language translation and interpretation of important school information to parents who are not fluent in English.

The Justice Department will oversee the district’s implementation of the settlement over the next four school years.