A St. Paul family has filed a class-action lawsuit against the St. Paul Public Schools alleging failures and discrimination in the education of foreign-born students trying to learn English.
The complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court came after the city’s Human Rights Department found probable cause that the district discriminated against a Como Park Senior High student who moved to the United States from Thailand in 2012.
The suit alleges the student, Lor Ler Kaw, was inappropriately placed in “mainstream” English and social studies classes alongside students who could speak English fluently — despite the fact that he was reading at a second-grade level.
The family also accuses the district of waiting too long — more than 14 months — to address what his parents suspected was a need for special-education services. Kaw also has a sibling who is a party to the suit.
Their father, George Thawmoo, said in a statement Friday that the family filed the suit, and is seeking class-action status, to force changes in district practices and to obtain “relief for the many refugee and immigrant families in our community who are facing discrimination.”
A school district spokesperson said Friday that the district does not comment on pending litigation.
English language learners (ELL) now make up about one-third of the student population in the state’s second-largest district.
The suit seeks unspecified damages as well as an order requiring the district to stop mainstreaming ELL students until each student is individually determined to be ready to participate, and to “provide appropriate and consistent support” to those who do.
The district also should be required to act in a timely manner to evaluate ELL students who may need special-education services, the complaint states.
“Our family looks forward to the opportunity for the court to review the facts and to rule on the school district’s conduct toward some of the newest students to enter our country,” Thawmoo said.