Students With Limited English Proficiency

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State and federal laws require schools to help all students learn. Certain laws apply to students who have limited English skills. These students are often called Limited English Proficient (LEP) students or English Language Learners (ELL). When a new student enters a school district, the district must decide if the student is LEP. Schools must help LEP students to learn English and complete general course work.

Every Student’s Right to Free Public Education and Services

It is illegal for schools to discriminate against students based on their race, ethnicity, or national origin. Your child’s school cannot ask about your immigration status, your child’s immigration status, or the immigration status of anyone in your family. You do not have to give the school a social security number for you or your child. However, the school will need proof of your child’s identity (full legal name) and age when you enroll them. The most common form of proof is the child’s birth certificate. If you do not have your child’s birth certificate, you might be able to give the school a sworn statement. A sworn statement is a letter that you write and promise is true. A sworn statement for the school should include your child’s name and age. It also must explain why you do not have your child’s birth certificate.

Free Public Education and Services

A school cannot deny any student’s right to education based on English proficiency or immigration status. A student’s right to education includes:

  • Free or reduced school breakfast or lunch for students who meet income or other eligibility requirements

  • Transportation to and from school

  • Free educational services, including special education if needed

Limited English proficiency is not a disability. Your child should not be placed in special education settings because of their English skills. However, if you feel your child needs Special Education Services, read How to Ask for Special Education Services for My Child. Parents with limited English skills have a right to language accommodations during the process.

The English Language Learners Program

The Michigan Department of Education says schools must offer an ELL program to all LEP students. The program must offer high-quality language instruction to improve students’ English language and academic skills.

You can ask the school to place your child in its ELL program if your child has trouble with English. Examples of having trouble with English include having a hard time reading, writing, speaking, or understanding English. In order to be eligible for a school’s ELL program your child must be:

  • Between three and 21 years old

  • Enrolled or preparing to enroll in school

  • Having problems with the English language that are not related to a learning disability

Schools must help LEP students until they are proficient in English. This means your child’s school must offer alternative services and accommodations. This applies to daily instruction and state assessments or other exams.

Student participation in ELL programs is voluntary. This means parents get to decide whether to enroll their child(ren) in the program. If you do not want your child to participate, you should tell the school. Your child will be removed from the ELL program and placed in standard classes. The school still must make sure your child gets the help that meets their English language and academic needs.

School staff will talk with you and your child before your child exits the ELL program. The goal is that your child can succeed in standard classes without adapted English materials. Teachers and specialists decide when a student is ready to transition into standard classes. To do this, school staff will test your child’s ability to read, write, speak, and understand English.