WASHINGTON -- The Departments of Education and Justice announced today that they have reached a comprehensive agreement with the Jefferson Parish Public School System in Louisiana (JPPSS) to ensure that all students can enroll in school regardless of their own national origin or immigration status, or that of their parents or guardians. The agreement also resolves complaints regarding JPPSS’ policies and practices for communicating with parents who have limited English proficiency (LEP) and JPPSS’ response to alleged harassment of Latino students based on their national origin.
“We applaud Jefferson Parish for ensuring that all students will have access to their public schools and that all parents, regardless of the language they speak, are equipped with the information necessary for their children to fully participate in and benefit from their educational programs,” said Assistant Secretary Catherine E. Lhamon for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. “We look forward to working with the Department of Justice and the school district to address these crucial civil rights issues.”
“This agreement will ensure that in Jefferson Parish, the doors to school and to opportunity will be open to all children, regardless of background,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We commend the school district for working collaboratively to resolve this matter and for its commitment to making sure that its schools are welcoming and accessible to all students and parents.”
Specifically, under the terms of the three-year voluntary agreement, JPPSS will:
- revise enrollment and registration materials and policies before the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year to ensure they do not exclude or discourage students from enrolling based on citizenship or immigration status;
- ensure that parents and students are not asked to produce a social security number, social security card, state-issued identity document or other document that requires proof of citizenship or immigration status in order to enroll or graduate;
- annually train all employees responsible for student enrollment and registration on the revised policies;
- implement a translation and interpretation policy to ensure that LEP parents receive essential information in a language they understand;
- annually train all JPPSS personnel who interact with the public regarding effective communication with LEP parents and what types of information must be translated or interpreted;
- create a bilingual parent advisory committee to make recommendations to JPPSS regarding the educational program for English language learners, registration and enrollment policies, harassment and bullying and communications with LEP parents;
- revise its current policy and practices to ensure that all complaints of discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin, including allegations of harassment on these bases, are appropriately investigated and resolved;
- provide anti-harassment, anti-bullying and diversity training for the faculty, staff and students of West Jefferson High School, where the alleged harassment and bullying occurred; and
- annually administer a school climate survey at West Jefferson High School to assess the presence of harassment and bullying on the basis of national origin, race and/or color.
The departments will closely monitor the implementation of the agreement to ensure timely and effective implementation and equal opportunity for all students to participate in JPPSS’ educational programs.
On May 8, 2014, the departments released newly-revised guidance documents reminding all school districts of their obligation under federal law to provide equal educational opportunities to all children residing in their districts, regardless of race, color, national origin, citizenship or immigration status or the status of their parents. A copy of the letter can be found on the Justice Department website.
The enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin by recipients of federal financial assistance, is a top priority of both departments. The Justice Department also enforces Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion in public schools, and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, which requires schools to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede students’ equal participation in instructional programs.
The mission of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001. Additional information about the office is available at this website.
Additional information about the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Educational Opportunities Section, is available at the section's website.