Students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) attending public schools must be given a meaningful opportunity to participate in and benefit from educational programming at school. Both federal and state laws prohibit discriminating against a student on the basis of national origin. Both federal and state legal obligations exist to ensure equal educational opportunity for ELL students. Wisconsin school districts' obligations to ELL students are also based on the Wisconsin Constitution and statutes on pupil nondiscrimination and bilingual-bicultural education (ss. 115.95-115.996, Wis. Stats.). Districts are required to establish, sustain, and improve learning environments which alleviate the barrier caused by not being able to communicate fully and effectively in English. These legal obligations apply even in schools or classes where only one ELL student is present.
The following questions should be considered whether ELL students are being provided with a meaningful opportunity to participate equally in educational programs as required by law: 1) Has the school designed a program which is based on a sound educational theory?, 2) Has the school pursued its program with adequate resources, personnel, and practices?, and 3) Has the program achieved satisfactory results? (Castañeda v. Pickard, 1981).
The following resources, research studies, and educational reports should help individual school districts with implementing best practices when serving our ELL students.