In 1969 a lawsuit was brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado seeking desegregation of the Denver Public Schools. The Congress of Hispanic Educators and individually named Mexican-American parents of minor children attending the Denver Public Schools intervened in 1974. Keyes v. School District No. 1, 576 F. Supp. 1503 (1983). On November 3, 1980, these intervenor-plaintiffs filed a supplemental complaint in intervention on behalf of Limited English Proficiency ("LEP") students. It alleged that the school district did not have adequate programs for students who were limited in their English proficiency. We do not have a copy of the complaint, nor of the complaint in intervention, nor of court docket sheets from that era, but the intervening plaintiffs' attorneys evidently were from the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy (META), Inc.-California.
In a December 1983, unpublished order, District Judge Richard P. Matsch found that there were deficiencies in the defendant's school program for students of limited English-speaking abilities and ordered that they be remedied. Representatives of the plaintiffs and the school district negotiated to develop a remedy for the deficiencies found by the court. They negotiated a settlement which (a) provided a procedure for identifying and assessing needy students, (b) established standards for teachers and aides, and (c) established programmatic standards. Before the settlement went into effect, parents of students who attend the Denver Public Schools and who were "Limited English Proficient" (LEP) could review the settlement and file any objection they had to its contents. They further had a right to appear in court to voice their objections.
A hearing to approve the settlement was set for August 1984, and resulted in a language rights order issued by Judge Matsch on August 7, 1984, in Keyes v. School District No. 1. Subsequently, the District was found to have attained unitary status and the desegregation component of the action was dismissed by order of September 12, 1995; the outstanding issues pertaining to LEP students were at that time split off from the original action and assigned a new civil docket number. The settlement led to dismissal of the original case.
Judge Matsch was still assigned the matter when, on March 3, 1995, the school district filed a motion to modify the language rights order. The Congress of Hispanic Educators, as plaintiffs, responded on March 24, 1995, prompting Judge Matsch to order a scheduling conference for the case, later in the year. That conference was the prelude to a number of status conferences and reports to the court over the next four years. A February 1999 status report indicated that, with the participation of the United States, an English Language Acquisition Program had been developed for implementation in the upcoming school year. The continued talks culminated in an April 1999 proposed settlement of the case. The day after the settlement proposal was submitted to the court, the United States moved to intervene in the case as an additional plaintiff, citing the Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, 20 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq., Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2OOOd, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134, as well as these statutes' implementing regulations. The intervention motion was granted on April 21, 1999.
The United States' complaint noted a 1997 findings letter in which the District was found by the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education (DOE) to be in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, due to the District's failure to provide equal educational opportunity to LEP students. Unable to obtain voluntary compliance with these statutes and the August 1984 order, DOE had referred the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), resulting in its' subsequent intervention. The intervention, however, came after the DOJ and the parties had reached a negotiated settlement. Accordingly, documents regarding the English Language Acquisition Program (ELAP) and compliance monitoring (for a three-year period by an agreed-upon monitor, Dr. Ernest House) were submitted for court approval.
A group, Padres Unidos, Inc., consisting of parents of Denver Public School students, filed objections to the proposed settlement and unsuccessfully voiced those to the court at a hearing in June 1999. On June 16, 1999, Judge Matsch approved the ELAP and monitoring plans, substituting these plans for the August 1984, order. In August of that year, the judge directed administrative closure of the case, retaining jurisdiction to review compliance issues brought to his attention.
Periodic monitoring reports were subsequently filed with the court. The case was dormant until September of 2012, when the parties filed a joint motion for an order to approve a new consent decree. In April of 2013, Judge Matsch issued an order approving the consent decree, which provided extensive accountability measures to ensure compliance with its terms. The consent degree included provisions requiring annual and semi-annual reporting by the Denver Public Schools to the U.S. Department of Justice and to the Congress of Hispanic Educators, annual multi-day visits to DPS schools by the U.S. and counsel for the CHE to monitor compliance, etc. It further required DPS to conduct its own monitoring to assess its compliance with the consent decree. The consent decree did not have a set duration.
The consent decree further provided for the appointment of an independent monitor to ascertain compliance. On a joint motion, the court appointed Dr. Paul Martinez as the Court's monitor. Dr. Martinez has entered four status reports dated February 25, 2014, October 24, 2014, June 8, 2015, and February 26, 2016. According to the latest status report, the school district has made significant progress in compliance with the consent decree and has identified the key remaining issues the district will have to address. Mike Fagan - 06/17/2008
Kevin Nomura - 03/08/2015
Maria Ricaurte - 03/20/2016