The Justice Department announced that it has entered into a settlement agreement with the Northeastern Local School District in Springfield and South Vienna, Ohio, to resolve allegations of racial harassment of African-American students in the district. The district serves approximately 3,700 students, less than two percent of whom are African-American.
In December 2011, the department received a complaint alleging incidents of racial harassment directed at an African-American student enrolled at Kenton Ridge High School (KRHS) in the district. The department’s investigation revealed that the student had been subjected to significant harassment based on race and retaliation for reporting the harassment. Despite having knowledge of this harassment, the district failed to investigate the alleged harassment adequately, address it effectively and prevent it from recurring. Because of the alleged harassment and retaliation, the student reported being afraid to go to school and eventually left the district out of fear for the student’s own safety. The department’s investigation also revealed that other African-American students in the district had experienced racial harassment and retaliation for reporting racial harassment.
“No student should endure the racial harassment that students in this district have experienced,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “It is a violation of our nation’s civil rights laws for students to be subjected to severe or pervasive harassment on a prohibited basis. I commend the Northeastern Local School District for working collaboratively with the department and for taking the steps necessary to serve all of its students in a safe environment free of discrimination and harassment.”
Under the agreement, the district will adopt a comprehensive strategy to address and prevent racial harassment in district schools consistent with its obligations under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in public schools. Among other things, the district will revise its policies and procedures related to racial harassment; hire a consultant to develop training for students, parents and employees within the district; and retain a mental health consultant to evaluate and improve the district’s practices in assisting students who are targets of harassment.
The enforcement of Title IV is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.