The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into an agreement with the Hazleton, Pa., Area School District to bring the district into compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for English Language Learner (ELL) students in the district.
OCR initiated an investigation to assess whether ELL students in the district have access to equal educational opportunities and whether the district adequately notifies national origin minority parents and guardians who are limited-English proficient (LEP) of school activities that are called to the attention of other parents.
“The Hazleton Area School District’s decision to equalize educational opportunity for its nearly 11,000 students, including its nearly 1,300 English language learner students and their families is a major step forward for the district’s children and families,” said assistant secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “This agreement protects English language learner students’ longstanding right to equal opportunity to participate in school programs, services and activities. The agreement also ensures that the district provides language assistance services to limited English proficient parents – to support their active participation in their children’s education.”
OCR found the district noncompliant in the following ways:
- Some students whose primary language is not English were inappropriately excused from the English language development program;
- The district did not provide required instructional time for over 240 elementary school ELL students;
- The district did not evaluate the effectiveness of its program and address any deficiencies;
- The district did not have an effective system to identify LEP parents and to ensure that interpreters were always available when needed.
Under the agreement, the district will take a number of corrective actions, including:
- Ensuring that students whose primary home language is not English will be promptly assessed for English language proficiency to determine eligibility for placement in an English language development program and that students will not be improperly exempted from assessment;
- Assessing students who were improperly exempted from language proficiency assessment to determine whether they may be eligible to receive English language development services;
- Conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the English language development program at each school level to determine its effectiveness and making modifications to address areas where the program is not meeting the district’s goals;
- Developing and implementing policies and procedures to ensure that LEP parents are notified, in a language they understand, of school activities that are called to the attention of other parents; and
- Providing training to appropriate staff on procedures for identifying language-minority parents and on policies and procedures for serving language minority parents.
OCR will closely monitor implementation of the agreement to ensure that the commitments are implemented in a timely and effective manner and that they result in equal opportunities for students to participate in the district’s education programs.
OCR's mission 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 race, color, national origin, disability, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001. Additional information about OCR is available at http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html.