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GOMEZ v. ILL. STATE BD. OF EDUC.

July 24, 1985

JORGE AND MARISA GOMEZ, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bua, District Judge.

ORDER

Before the Court is the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint of the purported plaintiff class, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), in an equal education opportunity case. For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motion is granted and the plaintiffs' complaint is dismissed. The plaintiffs are directed to file an amended complaint naming the correct parties as defendants.

I. FACTS

This is a class action brought by the named plaintiffs on behalf of Spanish-speaking children of limited English proficiency who are enrolled in various local school districts in Illinois. The named plaintiffs are students enrolled in either Iroquois West School District # 10 or Peoria School District # 150. Plaintiffs claim that their school districts have not tested them for English language proficiency nor have they received bilingual instruction or compensatory instruction. In support of this claim, plaintiffs assert that the Illinois State Board of Education and Ted Sanders, the Illinois State Superintendent of Education, have violated Chapter 122, Section 14C-3 of the Illinois Revised Statutes by failing to perform their duties thereunder.

That state statute governs transitional bilingual education in the Illinois state school system. The statute requires school districts to identify students of limited English-speaking ability and classify them according to language, grade, age or achievement level. Any school district with 20 or more students of limited English speaking proficiency must establish a transitional bilingual education program. The Illinois State Board of Education's responsibility under this statute is to develop certain regulations which must be adhered to by the school districts.

Finally, plaintiffs argue that these alleged violations of state law constitute violations of their federal rights under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA), 20 U.S.C. § 1703(f), Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, and regulations promulgated thereunder, 34 C.F.R. § 100.3 et seq., § 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that defendants have violated § 1703(f) and seek injunctive relief to remedy the violation. Specifically, they seek a mandatory injunction requiring defendants to provide local school districts with uniform standards for the identification and instruction of limited English-proficient students. They also seek programs for limited English-proficient students in school districts where there are less than 20 such students as well as a means by which parents may contest placement of students in a linguistic remedial program.

II. DISCUSSION

A. The Eleventh Amendment Defense

In support of their motion to dismiss, the defendants argue that, at its heart, plaintiffs' complaint alleges violations of state law in themselves and as violations of federal law. Further, defendants contend that, since state law violations are at the core of plaintiffs' action, the relief granted to the plaintiffs would necessarily involve an order requiring the defendants to comply with state law. Therefore, defendants conclude that plaintiffs' case is barred by the Eleventh Amendment because the relief most likely to be awarded is barred by Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 104 S.Ct. 900, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984).

In Pennhurst, the Supreme Court concluded that ". . . a federal suit against state officials on the basis of state law contravenes the Eleventh Amendment when — as here — the relief sought and ordered has an impact directly on the state itself." Id. 104 S.Ct. at 917. In its reasoning, the Court found that a federal court's instructions to state officials on how to conform their conduct to state law constitute too great an intrusion on state sovereignty and therefore conflict "directly with the principles of federalism that underlie the Eleventh Amendment." Id. at 911. Finally, the Court held that its above holding applies "as well to state-law claims brought into federal court under pendent jurisdiction." Id. at 919.

Plaintiffs counter that Pennhurst does not apply because, in this case, defendants' failure to supervise local districts in their identification and placement of limited English-proficient students is itself a violation of federal law. Specifically, plaintiffs complain that the defendants' failure to make uniform guidelines for identification of limited English-proficient students constitutes a "failure by an educational agency to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation by its students in its instructional programs." 20 U.S.C. § 1703(f). Therefore, since defendants' alleged failure to write guidelines under state law also violates federal law, plaintiffs conclude that an order compelling defendants to comply with state law is really meant to cure their violation of federal law and therefore Pennhurst should not apply to bar such relief.

Plaintiffs' attempt to distinguish Pennhurst from this case is unpersuasive. While it is correct that the Supreme Court in Pennhurst was not faced with this argument which links a violation of state law to a violation of federal law, the Court did expressly consider the effect of the Eleventh Amendment on the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction over state law claims. Id. at 917. As noted above, the Court held that the Eleventh Amendment "principle applies as well to state-law claims brought into federal court under pendent jurisdiction." Id. at 919. This holding persuades this Court that the Supreme Court in Pennhurst meant for state and federal law claims to be dealt with separately in an Eleventh ...


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