The Jefferson Parish public school system will ensure that Spanish-speaking families receive information from the system in their native language and that its policies do not dissuade parents from enrolling their children in school based on their immigration status, under an agreement the school district signed with the U.S. Department of Justice this week.
The agreement, which will remain in place for three years, has its roots in a 2-year-old complaint that Latino students were discriminated against because the system did not provide translators for parent-teacher conversations and did not send parents notices in Spanish. The complaint, filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, also alleged that district staff “routinely interrogated” students about their citizenship status.
“This agreement will ensure that in Jefferson Parish, the doors to school and to opportunity will be open to all children, regardless of background,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels, with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “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.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the school system will ensure that students are not excluded or discouraged from enrolling based on their citizenship or immigration status and that staff do not ask students or parents for proof of citizenship or immigration status. It will hold annual training sessions to ensure its employees understand those policies.
The school district will also have to implement a policy to ensure parents who have limited English proficiency receive information in a language they understand.
District officials further promise to revise their policies to ensure that complaints of discrimination are properly investigated.
At West Jefferson High School, which was the source of complaints of discrimination, the faculty, staff and students will be given anti-harassment, anti-bullying and diversity training. The district also will have to conduct an annual survey to gauge the presence of harassment and bullying at the school.
A bilingual parent advisory committee will be established to make recommendations on those issues, according to the agreement.
“Equality and access has been and remains a priority for the district,” the Jefferson system’s chief academic officer, Michelle Blouin-Williams, said in a statement.
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