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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Justice Department Reaches Settlement with School District of Palm Beach County, Fla., to Prevent and Address Discrimination in School Enrollment and Student Discipline

The Justice Department announced that it has reached a comprehensive settlement agreement with the School District of Palm Beach County, Fla., the nation’s eleventh-largest school district, to prevent and address discrimination in school enrollment and student discipline.   The agreement resolves the department’s investigation into complaints that the district failed to enroll children based on their or their parents’ national origin or immigration status, and that its system of discipline discriminated against students based on national origin and limited English proficiency.   The district serves more than 179,000 students, including 20,000 English language learners (ELLs).

 

“All children deserve an equal opportunity to learn, no matter where they are from or what language they speak,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We commend the School District of Palm Beach County for working collaboratively with the department to remove barriers to student enrollment, and for taking strong action to promote a safe, inclusive school environment for all students.”

 

Under the agreement, the district will enroll all area students regardless of background and will provide translation and interpretation services throughout the registration process.  The district will also limit the use of disciplinary measures that remove students from the classroom and implement behavior management and discipline practices that support and protect students.   The agreement:

  • Requires that ELL students and parents who are limited English proficient receive translation and interpretation services throughout the discipline process ;
  • Places limits on exclusionary discipline, such as suspension, and prohibits exclusionary discipline for minor misbehavior;
  • Expands the use of positive behavior interventions and supports, and requires that these interventions and supports be accessible to ELL students, including through appropriate translation or interpretation services;
  • Prohibits school officials from involving law enforcement officers to respond to behavior that can be safely and appropriately handled under school disciplinary procedures;
  • Requires school law enforcement officers to communicate with students in a language the student understands, including by securing an interpreter when appropriate;
  • Requires monitoring of discipline data to identify and respond to disparities; and
  • Requires training for relevant personnel on all revised policies and procedures.  

The enforcement of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race or national origin, among other bases, in public schools, and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, which requires schools to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede students’ equal participation in instructional programs, are top priorities of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  The Civil Rights Division also works to protect the right of all children to enroll in public schools regardless of immigration status, as set forth in the Supreme Court’s Plyler v. Doe decision. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.

Related Material:
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Civil Rights Division
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