FLORIDA — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has secured a settlement agreement with a Florida school district to protect the civil rights of English learner students, the DOJ has announced.
On Monday, the DOJ announced a settlement agreement with the Clay County School District to resolve the department’s findings about the district’s program for English learner students.
According to the DOJ, its investigation found that the district did not provide English learner students with the language instruction needed to become fluent in English and failed to provide non-English speaking parents with important school information in a language they could understand.
The department also alleged 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 available to their peers.
In the face of these shortcomings, the district failed to take timely corrective action to ensure equal access, the DOJ said.
“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.
“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.”
The district cooperated fully with the department’s investigation and, after receiving the results of the investigation, committed to improving its services for English learner students, the DOJ said.
As part of the settlement agreement, the district 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.
The agreement says that the district will change how it does things so that English learner students are properly evaluated and identified soon after they enroll. If they qualify, they will be given language services right away, and they will also be able to benefit from the same academic and behavioral supports as their peers.
The district will also ensure that all teachers are qualified, trained, and provided with enough support and resources to help English learners 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.
The Justice Department will oversee the district’s implementation of the settlement agreement over the next four school years.
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.
Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at civilrights.justice.gov/report/.