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Maryland County Accused of Discriminating in Foreign Language Education

Updated on June 24, 2016

Former White House Aide Says His Children Were Excluded

A former White House aide filed a lawsuit recently that seeks to force the Montgomery County, Maryland school system to accept more children of color into its foreign language immersion programs.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court says the school system is violating federal law through its selection process for its immersion students.

The lawsuit was filed by Will Jawando, who has worked in the Obama Administration and for the U.S. Department of Education. He recently lost in his campaign to become a Democratic member of Congress.

The school system fails to advertise the immersion program to students and their parents in areas with a high number of black and Hispanic residents and to conduct meaningful outreach to them, the lawsuit says. As a result, many parents do not know about the opportunity.

Jawando asked the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate his complaint.

The lawsuit appears to draw information from a recent school district report that alleges sharp differences in access to Montgomery County’s special academic programs among different ethnic groups. School officials have hosted community meetings recently to discuss the report’s findings.
Montgomery County uses a lottery to award language immersion access to elementary school students. Siblings of the students already enrolled get automatic admission.

The school system uses automatic admission of siblings to encourage foreign language learning within families. Critics of the automatic admission say it hinders access that favors privileged students.

Thirty-one percent of the county’s elementary students are white compared with 47 percent in the foreign language immersion program, according to the school district report.

Jawando’s lawsuit asks for changes similar to recommendations in the report, including better outreach to ethnically diverse students and ending automatic admission for siblings. The lawsuit accuses school officials of lacking a plan to remedy the discrimination and inequities.

Civil Rights and Education Collide Over Foreign Languages

Civil Rights and Education Collide Over Foreign Languages
Civil Rights and Education Collide Over Foreign Languages

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