Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education


International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

M. Sedique Popal

Second Advisor

Emma Fuentes

Third Advisor

Ursula Aldana


Currently, the English Learner (EL) label is found in every facet of education concerning learners with home languages other than English. While the EL label is designated to objectively identify students who are indeed learning English, it also brings with it an unintentional, outward forced identity that institutes an unwillingness among peers and teachers to socially and academically engage with EL-labeled students. Not only has the label warranted inequitable academic opportunities, wide graduation gaps, and a consistently wide achievement gap, it has also perpetuated a deficit model and negative perceptions of the learners, especially with the racialized rhetoric that has accompanied English Only movements. Presently, numerous studies narrate academic achievement statistics regarding the EL-labeled population; however, a review of the literature revealed a gap in research on how the label affects individuals on a social-psychological level. Given that Latinx communities are currently surrounded with an anti-immigrant, anti-Spanish rhetoric, along with historically racialized English Only movements that still play a role in today’s classrooms, this study sought to elucidate the narratives of previously labeled Latinx students regarding identity and self-concept and being stereotyped and stigmatized as a Latinx person as well as an “English Learner.” Thirteen Latinx individuals participated in this study. Eight one-on-one interviews and two focus groups composed the qualitative data. The data were analyzed through the conceptual theoretical lens of critical race theory (specifically, critical language and race theory and Latino critical theory) and the modified labeling theory. The data revealed that Latinx adults who were labeled as ELs during their primary and/or secondary education not only experience social psychological internalizations related to the EL label, but they also manifest these internalizations in various ways and in multiple spaces of their lives beyond high school. This study concluded that the stigma and stereotypes associated with the EL label do not end at the moment of redesignation or at the end of high school. On the contrary, individuals who were subjected to the label form internalizations about identity, language, and race that can be maintained beyond the label marker for an indeterminate amount of time. However, through various experiences, the social-psychological internalizations can change between positive and negative associations under certain circumstances.