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United States v. State of Texas

In 1970, Judge William Wayne Justice of the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Texas ordered the State of Texas and nine school districts to remedy past discrimination that continued to harm the educational achievement of minority students in the State. MALDEF intervened on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens and the American GI Forum to hold the State responsible for providing equal educational opportunities to Latino and English Language Learners (ELLs) and to remedy past de jure discrimination against Latinos.

In 1981, the District Court found that the State had failed to help ELLs overcome language barriers under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA). While the case was on appeal, Texas passed a law expanding bilingual education to grades K-6 and providing for English as a Second Language (ESL) programs for middle and high schools. The Fifth Circuit held the issue was moot because the State’s revised language program must be given a chance to work.1

In February 2006, MALDEF filed a Motion for Further Relief against the State for failing to effectively monitor and supervise the State’s bilingual and ESL programs. In addition, MALDEF challenged the State’s ESL program for secondary students for failing to help those students learn English. On July 30, 2007, Judge Justice issued an opinion denying the motion. MALDEF asked the court to reconsider and a year later, the court threw out its earlier opinion and found that Texas had violated the rights of ELLs under the EEOA. Among the violations included were: under-identification of ELLs; the achievement standards for monitoring language programs were arbitrary and not based upon equal educational opportunity; the State’s intervention monitors lacked bilingual and ESL certifications, resulting in the “blind leading the blind;” and the system monitored language programs only at the district-level (not the campus-level) thus permitting successful bilingual programs in elementary schools to mask failing ESL programs in secondary schools. The Court also found that the secondary ESL program had failed to help students learn English under the EEOA. The Court ordered Texas to submit a revised monitoring plan and a modified secondary language program by January 2009.

The State appealed the ruling to the Fifth Circuit, and oral argument was held in June 2009. The Fifth Circuit issued its opinion on March 22, 2010, reversing the injunction and remanding the case to the lower court for additional findings in order to determine whether the State or individual districts (which have yet to be brought into the lawsuit) should be held liable for the dismal performance of secondary ELLs. MALDEF and META expect to press forward with the lawsuit on behalf of ELLs and will name individual districts as defendants in the near future.

The Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy, Inc. is co-counsel in the case, which seeks to ensure that all students are given the opportunity to learn regardless of language ability.

1. In 1982, the Fifth Circuit also held that Intervenors failed to present sufficient evidence of statewide de jure segregation against Latino students. In its 2010 decision, the Fifth Circuit also considered a State appeal in the desegregation part of the case. The Court held that the statewide desegregation order would no longer apply to any school district that was: declared unitary; under the jurisdiction of another court in a desegregation lawsuit; or, not a party to the case in 1970 and requests exemption from the order unless a plaintiff shows the district is not unitary.