NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
DIVISION OF STUDENT SERVICES
OFFICE OF BILINGUAL EDUCATION AND EQUITY ISSUES
P.L. 1995 C.327
PARENTAL CONSENT IN BILINGUAL EDUCATION
QUESTION AND ANSWER DOCUMENT
THE PARENTAL CONSENT LAW
A. MAJOR PROVISIONS
1. What are the provisions of the parental consent amendment to the bilingual education law?
The parental consent amendment to the bilingual education law, which went into effect on July 1, 1996, states that parents of English language learners have the right to decline bilingual education program services. Prior to the enactment of this law, parents could challenge a district's decision to enroll their child in a bilingual education program, but could not decline services without following an appeal process.
2. Is parental consent only for bilingual education programs or does it also include ESL-only programs and English language services? (See appendix for definitions.)
The intent of the parental consent amendment is to apply to all parents of ELLs. Therefore, the law applies to parents of students eligible to be served by part-time and full-time bilingual/ESL programs, ESL-only programs or English language services (ESL) programs.
1. Does the parental consent amendment apply only to ELLs enrolled in the program after July 1, 1996?
No. The parental consent amendment applies to all ELLs regardless of when enrolled.
2. Do parents have the right to decline their child's enrollment in bilingual education programs and choose ESL-only program services for their child?
Yes. Parents may decline enrollment of their child in a bilingual education program and choose ESL-only program services.
3. Can parents decline enrollment of their child in an ESL-only program?
Yes. Parents have the right to decline enrollment of their child in a bilingual/ESL program, ESL-only program or English language services program.
4. If a parent declines bilingual/ESL services during school registration, may they request these instructional services at a later date?
Yes, however, it is the decision of the local district to determine whether to enroll the child mid-year or at what point during the school year such enrollment could occur, based on the needs of the student.
1. Must a district inform the parents of all ELLs about the requirements of the parental consent amendment?
Yes. The district must notify parents that their child has been identified for enrollment in a bilingual, ESL or ELS program. Each school year, parents of all English language learners should be informed of their children's status and of their rights to decline program participation. For ELLs who are currently enrolled in a program, this notification should take place after the students are tested for language proficiency at the end of the school year. For newly enrolled students, such notice should occur at the beginning of the school year.
2. What information should be shared with parents regarding the availability of bilingual/ESL/ELS services and their benefits for English language learners?
Annually, districts should provide parents with a description of the bilingual/ESL/ELS programs in order to assist parents in making an informed decision regarding their child's enrollment in the program. This description should also provide information regarding policies relative to ELLs including exemption from standardized tests in English and eligibility for the Special Review Assessment (SRA) in the native language for high school students.
Parents should be informed about the new Core Curriculum Content Standards and assessment process that began in 1997-98 and includes English language learners.
D. APPEAL PROCESS
1. May a parent remove an ELL from a bilingual/ESL program before the end of the school year?
During the first three years of a pupil's participation in a program, the parent or guardian may only remove a pupil at the end of the school year. If the parent or guardian wishes to remove the pupil prior to the end of the school year, he/she must have the approval of the county superintendent of schools.
2. When is the county superintendent informed about the parents' request to remove their ELL child from a bilingual/ESL program or English language services?
The county superintendent of schools should be informed about a parent's intent to remove his/her ELL child from a bilingual/ESL program only if the parent wishes to remove a student from a program before the end of a school year. In such cases, the county superintendent will review the case and may determine to maintain the student in the program, if it is in the best interest of the student.
3. Do the ELLs stay in the program until the end of the appeal to the county office of education and Commissioner of Education?
Yes, ELLs will remain enrolled in the program until the appeal process is completed.
4. If a parent does not want his/her child in a program, regardless of the student's English language skills, is there an appeal process for school districts?
No. If a parent refuses enrollment of a English language learner in a bilingual/ESL program, ESL-only program or English language services program, then the child cannot be enrolled in the program. The law and administrative code do not allow for an appeal process for school districts. Once the student is enrolled, he/she may only be removed at the end of each school year, during the first three years of a pupil's participation in a program.
E. RELATED ISSUES
1. How does this law apply to a special education student whose Individualized Education Plan (IEP) requires bilingual or ESL services?
If a parent of a special education student disagrees with the IEP, the parent or the district may request mediation or due process to protect the rights of the child.
2. Will districts that currently implement bilingual programs for small populations be required to maintain the program if the enrollment falls below 20 students of the same language group?
No. If, due to parents' declining services, the number of students in a bilingual program falls below the requirement for a full-time program, the district has the option of continuing to provide a bilingual education program for any language classification with fewer than 20 children (N.J.S.A. 18A 35-18 et seq.). The district can also apply to the department for approval of an ESL-only program.
3. If a parent declines bilingual/ESL/ELS services, can a district continue to count the student as LEP on the Application for School State Aid (ASSA) and the ELL Enrollment Tracking System?
No. The district may not continue to count these ELLs as eligible to receive bilingual categorical aid because districts are not eligible to receive bilingual categorical aid for ELLs not being served.
Bilingual Education Program – A full-time program of instruction in all those courses or subjects which a child is required by law or rule to receive, given in the native language of the children of limited English proficiency enrolled in the program and also in English. The program offers the aural comprehension, speaking, reading and writing of the native language of the children of limited English proficiency enrolled in the programs, and the aural comprehension, speaking, reading and writing of English; the history and culture of the country, territory or geographic area which is the native land of the parents of children of limited English proficiency enrolled in the program; and the history and culture of the United States. All pupils in bilingual education programs receive English as a second language instruction.
English as a Second Language (ESL) Program – A daily developmental second language program which teaches aural comprehension, speaking, reading and writing in English using second language teaching techniques and incorporates the cultural aspects of the pupils' experiences into their ESL instruction.
English Language Services Program – These are services designed to improve the English language skills of pupils of limited English proficiency. These are in addition to the regular school program and have as their goal the development of aural comprehension, speaking, reading and writing skills in English.