Language Access in the School District of Philadelphia

Y.S., a named plaintiff in the original case, was a 16-year-old student from Cambodia who did not speak English. He was misidentified as needing special education services after school officials tested him with an evaluation designed for native-English speakers. He was then labeled as mentally retarded and inappropriately isolated in a special education classroom where he fell further behind. The school provided no translation or interpretation services to his parents during this process. An estimated 14,000 students in Philadelphia schools share Y.S.’s struggles and are members of families whose primary language is not English. Even though it is mandated by federal and local law, the School District of Philadelphia systemically fails to provide the interpretation and translation services parents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) need to meaningfully participate in their child’s education.

In 2015, together with the Education Law Center-PA and Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of children with disabilities and their parents who do not speak English as their primary language.  We are asking the Court to hold the District accountable to provide interpretation and translation services. The District filed a motion to dismiss the case. Notably, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in support of our claims. In a major victory for parents, in November 2016, the Court denied the School District’s motion to dismiss and the case is now proceeding to the discovery and class action certification proceedings.

Case Progress

December 2016
Important Victory for Parents with Limited English Proficiency and their Children with Disabilities, as Lawsuit against the School District of Philadelphia Moves Forward

September 2016
Oral Argument Scheduled for September 28, 2016, at 2 p.m.

January 2016
Department of Justice Files Support Brief

August 2015
Lawsuit Challenges School District of Philadelphia’s Failure to Translate Documents and Interpret for Parents With Limited English Proficiency and their Children with Disabilities

March 2015
Law Center and Partners Reach Agreement to Dismiss Old Case

July 2013
Status Conference Results in Monthly Compliance Meetings and Quarterly Reports

April 2013
Law Center and Partners File Motion to Reopen Case

Compliance Issues

Court Makes Finding of Non-Compliance & Stipulations When the District failed to comply with annual reporting requirements in subsequent years, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Enforcement that granted continued judicial supervision.

Original Settlement & Remedial Plans

Staff on the Case
Michael Churchill
Michael Churchill