Justice Department settles with Newark Public Schools to protect English-language learners

NEWARK, NJ — The Justice Department has reached a settlement with Newark Public Schools to resolve the department’s investigation into the school district’s programs for its students who are English-language learners, announced Rachael A. Honig, acting U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, and Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, on Wednesday, Sept. 1.

The agreement ends the district’s longstanding and common practice of removing students from programs for English learners before they become fluent in English. The district has agreed to improve services for English-learning students, so they can access the same educational opportunities as other students in the Newark Public Schools.

The department’s multiyear investigation uncovered wide-ranging failures to properly serve students learning English. The department found that the district failed to hire and retain enough qualified teachers to support its program, resulting in limited instruction time for some students and, for others, no language services at all. The Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey investigated through the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.

“Our office steadfastly supports the civil rights of all students, including English learners,” Honig said. “We are pleased that the Newark Board of Education has agreed to fully embrace its obligation to meet the language needs of its English learners and resolve the serious violations of federal law uncovered during this investigation. We will continue to hold school districts and other education agencies accountable, so that all students in New Jersey have equal access to educational opportunities.”

“School districts must provide effective English learner services, so that all students can create an American dream of their own,” said Clarke. “We will continue fighting to ensure compliance with our federal civil rights laws, as we stand up for every student’s right to equal educational opportunities across our country. The comprehensive requirements in this settlement agreement will create lasting change and provide access to education for thousands of English learner students in Newark.”

The Justice Department will monitor the district’s implementation of the settlement agreement for at least three full school years, until the district has fully complied with its obligations.