School System Under Investigation for Discrimination by Not Providing Materials in Spanish

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is now investigating the Wake County Public School System, in Raleigh, North Carolina, for discrimination against Latino students with Spanish-speaking parents. 

The announcement comes after a complaint filed in June by Advocates for Children's Services (ACS) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The complaint described how limited English proficient parents of Latino students are unable to read and understand important school documents in English, such as long-term suspensions and special education materials. The complaint states that because the school system provides these materials to English-speaking parents in English but not to Spanish-speaking parents in Spanish, the school system has discriminated against the students and violated state and federal law, as well as local policy. 

Latino students make up 15 percent of the district's student population and limited English proficient students are 7.5 percent of the student population. Federally funded school districts are required by various laws to take reasonable steps to ensure that non-English speaking students have opportunities to participate in education programs. 

“Wake County public schools must recognize that Latino students and their parents have the same rights as their English-speaking counterparts,” said Caren Short in a release. Short is a staff attorney at the SPLC. “We are pleased that the Office for Civil Rights is investigating the district’s policies on translating important school documents. Every student must have an opportunity to succeed in the classroom.”

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