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Abstract

English Language Learners (ELLs) and language-minority families have few promising options for receiving tailored educational services under federal law. Civil Rights era statutes like the Equal Education Opportunities Act (EEOA) designed to protect and promote ELLs’ right to an education have led to few actual changes in children’s education, and fewer still within reasonable time frames. For the subset of ELLs with disabilities, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) holds out the promise of more direct and immediate improvements in their education. Part I of this Article introduces the problem through a hypothetical student, Faith, and her family. Part II examines the demographics of ELLs and students with special needs in public schools in the United States. Part III discusses the EEOA’s shortcomings and the promise of the IDEA’s dispute resolution procedures for language minority families. Part IV examines how major metropolitan areas in California, New York, and Texas have been applying the IDEA particularly with regard to ELLs and their families. Finally, Part V gleans lessons from these urban districts’ practices and identifies several areas of particular concern for language minority families, advocates, and school administrators hoping to structure their special education dispute resolution programs in the most effective way

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