The U.S. Department of Justice said it has reached a settlement agreement with the Clay County School District after the school system was accused of failing to provide English-learner students with the language instruction needed to become fluent in English and failing to provide non-English speaking parents with important school information in a language they could understand.
DOJ said the district cooperated with its investigation and has agreed to revise its policies and improve its services so that students can learn English and fully participate in the district’s educational experience.
“Students who are learning English have the right to engage in coursework alongside their peers, and schools must take action necessary to make that right a reality,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a news release. “The Justice Department will continue to hold schools accountable when they fail to deliver on our collective promise of equality. This agreement will help ensure that English learner students in Clay County are given the tools necessary to succeed and strive in the classroom.”
DOJ said it also found that English learner students could not meaningfully participate in core content classes, like math, science and social studies and did not receive individualized academic and behavioral supports that are available to their peers. In the face of these shortcomings, the district failed to take timely corrective action to ensure equal access, DOJ said.
Under the agreement, DOJ said the district will modify its practices so that English learner students are properly assessed and identified shortly after their enrollment, promptly provided with language services if they qualify and have the opportunity to equally benefit from the academic and behavioral supports provided to their peers. The district will also make certain that all teachers are qualified, trained and provided enough support and resources to help English-learner students become fluent in English and understand their core-content courses.
The district will also provide language translation and interpretation of important school information to parents who are not fluent in English. DOJ said it will oversee the district’s implementation of the settlement agreement over the next four school years.
“School districts must provide English learner students with appropriate services to overcome language barriers,” said U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg for the Middle District of Florida. “We are pleased that the Clay County School District has agreed to embrace its obligation to meet the language needs of its English learners so that students can learn English and fully participate in the district’s educational experience. Equal access to educational opportunities is at the heart of civil rights protections for our youth and students are entitled to equal access despite any language barriers they may have.”
The department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida jointly investigated under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974. The enforcement of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 is a top priority of the Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at Justice.gov/crt, and additional information about the work of the Educational Opportunities Section is available at Justice.gov/crt/educational-opportunities-section.