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Calif. School Can Require Language Certification

(CN) - A California appeals court upheld a school district's requirement that teachers either become certified to teach non-fluent English speakers or be fired.

The Ripon Unified School District imposed the requirement on its teachers to satisfy these two state requirements: All students who aren't fluent in English must be taught by educators who are certified to instruct them; and these English learners must have equal access to all of the school's programs.

The school district agreed with the teachers' union on this requirement, paying for the training and providing an additional stipend.

When Theresa Messick, Ripon High School's only music teacher, refused to be certified, the school district began the process of firing her.

An administrative law judge ruled that the district lacked the authority to force her to get certified. The trial court reversed that decision and authorized Messick's firing.

The San Joaquin-based Third District Court of Appeal agreed, noting that the number of English learners in California public schools is at 1 million and increasing rapidly.

"Messick has failed to demonstrate the District's action was pre-empted by a conflicting state statute. Accordingly, the action was within the District's authority under (the) Education Code," Justice Nicholson wrote.

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