Complaint argues discrimination against English language learners in New Britain

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NEW BRITAIN--A federal office is investigating New Britain's schools after a complaint was filed by a former board of education member claiming discrimination against English Language Learner (ELL) students.

"All English Learners in New Britain Schools have to take English Language Development (ELD) instruction before they could take regular courses," the complainant wrote to the Office of Civil Rights in 2013. "This discriminates against English learners because it deprives them from equal access to those disciplines and puts them behind."

Those close to the complainant say the the alleged injustice is linked to the end of a dual-language model at New Britain's DiLoreto Magnet School in 2012.

"You have 50 percent native Spanish speakers or native Chinese speakers, whatever the second language is and 50 percent native English speakers," Central Connecticut State University, and former community liaison at DiLoreto, Jacob Werblow, said.

Werblow said that after the dual language program was dismissed, more ELL students were relocated to DiLoreto, to their detriment.

"If you go from 50 percent English Language Learners to 75 percent, well of course, your scores are going to drop and the scores for the other elementary schools in the district go up," Werblow said.

In response to this story, New Britain Public Schools Superintendent Kelt Cooper sent us this statement:

Three years ago, New Britain was the worst performing district in the state. DiLoreto was the eighth worst school in the state, a school that "warehoused" ELLs and should have, at that time, been investigated. We are completely compliant with CT law and the complaint is originating from those who were directly and indirectly responsible for the lack of success by ELLs and are no longer allowed to be involved. Any one can make a complaint with OCR, regardless of how factless or fanciful the assertions.