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Lau Consent Decree Sunsets for SFUSD

Press Release

San Francisco (July 1, 2019) - After over 45 years of compliance with a federal mandate that the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) provide services for English Language Learners, the District has been released from its Court-supervised obligations, and remains deeply invested in its comprehensive system of support for English Language Learners.

The District was completely released from the Lau Consent Decree on June 30, 2019, and will provide ongoing services for English Language Learners (ELLs) as required under state and federal law without Court supervision.

The U.S. Supreme Court approved the Lau v. Nichols Consent Decree in 1974, requiring the District to ensure that all English Language Learners had access to the core curriculum by providing appropriate instructional services. The lawsuit was initiated in the 1970s by Chinese parents because the District did not provide services designated to English Language Learners.

A year after the consent decree was approved, SFUSD adopted its first Master Plan for K-12 Bilingual Bicultural Education, which included the provision of language programs and English Language Development (ELD) for all ELLs. In 2008 and again in 2015, the district and Lau Plaintiffs jointly submitted modified Lau plans which outlined a comprehensive system of support for ELLs. In addition to ELL assessments, professional development, and instruction, each revised plan included protocols for family communication and engagement, access for ELLs with Individual Education Programs (IEPs), and monitoring activities to inform current practices.

“This is a major milestone for the staff, students and families who have helped SFUSD meet all of the requirements of the consent decree. Our district has transformed since 45 years ago when this decree was established and we are now a system that is deeply invested in maintaining a comprehensive system of support for English Language Learners,” Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said. “Multilingualism and multiculturalism are assets we aim to develop and nurture in our students. They are an essential part of our graduate profile as we prepare our students with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. We will continue to build on promising practices that have effectively addressed the needs of English Language Learners and their families.”

Leydi Agustin Herrera, a recent graduate of San Francisco International High School, recalled her experience as an English Language Learner in the district. “My teachers made learning English and school fun. During the school day, students worked together in groups with mixed English levels which helped us learn together and from each other. There were also many supports such as after school tutoring with bilingual volunteers for English and Math and community circles during advisory class which provided me with lots of emotional support.”

“The Board is grateful for all those who have worked to ensure our English Language Learner students are supported and educated,” Board of Education President Stevon Cook said. “We are an equity-driven school district and we will continue to improve on the ways our students who are learning English are equipped with the tools they need to succeed in life.”

The district has invested deeply in providing ELLs with access to a comprehensive system of support and is committed to continuing the following practices for ELLs:

  • English Language Learners receive designated and integrated English Language Development services until they are reclassified as English proficient. Site administrators and teachers have assessment data, materials and professional development to provide effective ELD instruction to their students. 

  • English Language Learners have access to various language programs so that they can receive content instruction in their home language as they develop their English skills. ELs have the opportunity to receive a Seal of Biliteracy on their diploma as graduating seniors by demonstrating advanced levels of proficiency in their home language and English.

  • Multilingual families have timely access to translations of essential documents in the district’s major languages as well as interpretation services during meetings with school staff and district-wide convenings. Communication protocols are in place to engage ELL families at every stage of the IEP process.

  • Both site-based and district-wide meeting structures are in place for ELL families to learn and engage in current programs and protocols for English Language Learners. Both program and budget recommendations from ELL families are included in the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP).

During the next two years, the district will be embarking on the development of its first master plan for English Language Learners without Court supervision. This will be an opportunity for key stakeholders, including ELLs and their families, school staff, central office departments, school board members, and other community members, to be engaged in the design process of the new plan. 

Visit our homepage to read more about language pathways and programs in SFUSD.

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Page updated on 07/01/19