United States Reaches Settlement with Charleston County School District to Ensure Equal Opportunities for English Learner Students
Charleston, S.C (STL.News) The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina announced today a settlement agreement with the Charleston County School District to resolve an investigation into complaints that the school district failed to communicate essential information to thousands of Spanish-speaking, limited English proficient (LEP) parents and denied their children full and equal access to the district’s education programs and services.
The investigation found that the school district often failed to use qualified interpreters to communicate with Spanish-speaking, LEP parents and guardians, even when their need for an interpreter was documented or otherwise evident. It also found that the school district did not consistently translate essential written information into Spanish, nor did it explain options on important decisions about school programs and services with parents in a language they understood.
The agreement, which stems from the United States’ investigation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, will ensure that the school district provides English Learner students and LEP parents the services needed to succeed in the school district’s educational programs.
Under the agreement, the school district, which cooperated at every stage of the investigation and is committed to improving its practices through revised policies and professional development, will:
Implement effective policies and procedures and provide employees with training to properly identify and meaningfully communicate with LEP parents and guardians;
Use qualified interpreters and translators at each of the district’s 80 schools and programs to communicate with parents about matters essential to their children’s education and cease relying on family members, untrained staff, and students for such purposes;
Provide LEP parents with access to documents and information about program offerings, including special education services, in a language they understand at each of the district’s 80 schools and programs;
Ensure that all parents and guardians knowingly consent to, or decline educational programming and services for, their children; and
Contact LEP parents and guardians prior to holding special education-related meetings to notify them of the right to have a qualified interpreter at the meeting and translated special-education related documents, at no cost to the parent or guardian.
“Empowering parents and guardians with the information necessary to meaningfully participate in their children’s education is critical to students’ success in school and beyond. We must continue the work to ensure that all parents have this opportunity, regardless of national origin or English proficiency,” said Pamela S. Karlan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. “We are encouraged by the Charleston County School District’s commitment and cooperation and look forward to continuing to work with the district to implement this agreement and fulfill its promise of equal treatment for all of the district’s students and their parents.”
“The Charleston County School District should be commended for its cooperation with this investigation and for its commitment to its students, parents, and guardians,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina M. Rhett DeHart. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office looks forward to continue working with the school district, as it strives to be a model for other districts in providing full and equal access to information.”
The enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 is a top priority of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.