Guiding Federal Laws on Equal Educational Opportunity
This KnowledgeBase archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.
There are three federal laws that provide the legal foundation for providing equal educational opportunity to students with limited English proficiency: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. A summary of each Act follows.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Title VI regulation at 34 C.F.R. § 100.3(a) and (b), provides that school districts that receive Federal financial assistance (recipients) may not, directly or through contractual or other arrangements, on the ground of race, color or national origin, restrict an individual in any way in the enjoyment of any advantage or privilege enjoyed by others receiving any service. A recipient also may not deny an individual the opportunity to participate in the recipient's program or afford an individual an opportunity to do so, which is different from that afforded others.
Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974
No state shall deny equal educational opportunity to an individual on account of his or her race, color, sex or national origin, by the failure by an educational agency to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation by its students in its instructional programs.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The regulation implementing Section 504 at 34 C.F.R § 104.35, provides that a recipient that operates a public elementary or secondary education program shall conduct an evaluation of any person who, because of disability, needs or is believed to need special education or related services before taking any action with respect to the initial placement of the person in a regular or special education program. OCR's interpretation of the regulation includes the requirement that the recipient establish standards and procedures for the evaluation and placement of such persons ensuring, among other things, that tests are selected and administered, so that test results accurately reflect a student's special education needs rather than English proficiency skills.
The regulation implementing Section 504 at 34 C.F.R. § 104.36 provides that a recipient must establish a system of procedural safeguards for students who need, or are believed to need, special education or related aids and services that includes notice, an opportunity for the parents or guardian of the person to examine relevant records, an impartial hearing with opportunity for participation by the person's parent or guardian, representation by counsel and a review procedure. Such procedural safeguards must be communicated in a language that is best understood by the parents or guardian.
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