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Case Name D.J. v. State of California ED-CA-0021
Docket / Court BS 142775 ( State Court )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Education
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU of Southern California
Case Summary
On April 24, 2013, the ACLU of Southern California started this case by filing a petition for writ of mandate and complaint in the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County, on behalf of public school students identified as English Learners (ELs), their parents, and a former administrator. ... read more >
On April 24, 2013, the ACLU of Southern California started this case by filing a petition for writ of mandate and complaint in the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County, on behalf of public school students identified as English Learners (ELs), their parents, and a former administrator. The plaintiffs sued the state of California and the California Department of Education (CDE) under state constitutional and statutory law and the federal Equal Education Opportunities Act. The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief, alleging that the CDE discriminated against the students on the basis of race and national origin.

Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that students who identified as ELs were deprived of the fundamental right of an equal opportunity for education. In California, 1 out of every 4 students identifies as an EL and requires special instruction to supplement the school curriculum. Without English proficiency, EL students are unable to master score skills and succeed under the state-mandated curriculum, depriving them of long-term educational benefits. Both state and federal law mandate that all students identified as ELs receive English language instructional programs. However, based on data released by the CDE, 20,000 EL students in 251 school districts did not receive the required English language instruction. The plaintiffs alleged that California and the CDE failed to adequately monitor the school districts, and did not take action to remedy the lack of EL instruction. Furthermore, plaintiffs alleged that, as public money was distributed to the school district for the express purpose of EL instruction, public fund were illegally misused.

Following the ACLU's filing, California modified the language in its census to prevent school districts from affirmatively reporting that they were not providing EL services. The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on May 28, 2014. On July 14, 2014, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division filed formal statement of interest in the case, arguing that under the federal Equal Educational Opportunities Act, states were not authorized to ignore district reports that demonstrated a lack of EL services.

On September 16, 2014, the Superior Court granted a tentative decision on the plaintiff's writ of mandate. The court found that CDE's monitoring program was inadequate and that it had a duty to ensure that every school district provided the appropriate EL programing for its students. The court found the plaintiffs were entitled to an injunction that required the CDE to create procedures that ensured the availability of EL services. The court denied the taxpayer relief claim, however. On November 12, 2014, the state and CDE appealed to the Second District California Court of Appeal. Two days later, plaintiffs filed for attorneys' fees and costs (the motion was on January 2, 2015, to await the outcome of the appeal).

On September 11, 2015, the parties reached a settlement agreement. CDE agreed to withdraw its appeal and the plaintiffs agreed to withdraw the fee motion. CDE also agreed to notify California's 251 districts of their failure to comply with state and federal law; to modify the census language so districts could, again, affirmatively report lack of EL services; and to provide guidance to the districts in implementing the EL programs. CDE additionally agreed to collect and publish data on state EL services and monitor district progress. Finally CDE agreed to pay the plaintiffs $800,000 in attorneys' fees and costs.

The agreement provided that the trial court would maintain jurisdiction for 3 years to enforce the agreement.

Carolyn Weltman - 04/18/2016

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Student assignment
Elementary/Secondary School
Language discrimination
National origin discrimination
Race discrimination
Communication skills
Failure to supervise
Language/ethnic/minority needs
Special education
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race, unspecified
Type of Facility
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) California Department of Education
State of California
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are several school-age children enrolled in California public schools who qualify as "English Learners" (EL) and their parents. One plaintiff is a California public school teacher and taxpayer interested in preventing the illegal and wasteful expenditure of funds.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU of Southern California
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Conditional Dismissal
Order Duration 2015 - 2018
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Courts and Kids: Pursuing Educational Equity Through the State Courts
By: Michael Rebell (Columbia University, and Campaign for Educational Equity)
Citation: (University of Chicago Press, 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Opportunity Lost [ACLU of California Report] 01/23/2013
ED-CA-0021-0001 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Letter Re: Denial of English Language Services 01/23/2013
ED-CA-0021-0002 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint 04/24/2013
ED-CA-0021-0003 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Amended Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint 05/28/2014
ED-CA-0021-0004 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Petitioners' Amended Opening Brief 06/12/2014
ED-CA-0021-0005 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Respondents' Amended Opposition Brief 07/03/2014
ED-CA-0021-0006 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Statement of Interest by the United States 07/14/2014
ED-CA-0021-0007 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Tentative Decision on Petition for Writ of Mandate: Granted 08/12/2014
ED-CA-0021-0008 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Settlement Agreement 09/11/2015
ED-CA-0021-0009 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Judges None on record
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Azad, Susan S. (California)
Conway, Benjamin T. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0004 | ED-CA-0021-0005 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Crockett, Robert D. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0004 | ED-CA-0021-0005 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Hamme, Brendan (California)
Hoq, Laboni Amena (California)
ED-CA-0021-0004 | ED-CA-0021-0005 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Klosterman, Monica R. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0004 | ED-CA-0021-0005 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Loy, David (California)
ED-CA-0021-0003 | ED-CA-0021-0004 | ED-CA-0021-0005
Ma, Justin (California)
Matthews, Martha (California)
ED-CA-0021-0004 | ED-CA-0021-0005
McDonough, Bryn M. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0004 | ED-CA-0021-0005 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Mohammadi, Faraz R. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0004 | ED-CA-0021-0005 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Ochi, Nicole K. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0003 | ED-CA-0021-0004 | ED-CA-0021-0005 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Park, Yungsuhn (California)
Price, Jessica G. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0001 | ED-CA-0021-0004 | ED-CA-0021-0005 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Rosenbaum, Mark Dale (California)
ED-CA-0021-0002 | ED-CA-0021-0004 | ED-CA-0021-0005 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Sapp, David B. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0001 | ED-CA-0021-0004 | ED-CA-0021-0005 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Defendant's Lawyers Crane, Chara L. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0006 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Harris, Kamala D. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0006 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Kim, Jennifer M. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0006 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Murphy, Christine M. (California)
Newman, Tara L. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0006 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Plisner, Amanda G. (California)
ED-CA-0021-0006 | ED-CA-0021-0009
Other Lawyers Bhargava, Anurima (District of Columbia)
McCarthy, Emily H. (District of Columbia)
Savitsky, Zoe M. (District of Columbia)

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