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WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Justice Department today announced that it has entered into a consent decree with New York City and various school district officials, settling allegations of civil rights violations and deprivations of equal educational opportunities at Brooklyn’s Lafayette High School.

The government’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges that school district officials deliberately ignored severe and pervasive harassment directed at Asian-American students by their classmates. This harassment allegedly included both physical and verbal abuse, including multiple violent assaults. According to the complaint, students regularly threw food, cans and combination locks at Asian-American students, while shouting ethnic slurs.

Additionally, the government alleged that school district officials failed to take appropriate action to help students overcome language barriers that impeded their equal participation in the school’s instructional program, as required by the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.

“A school district cannot stand aside and ignore severe and pervasive racially motivated harassment of an ethnic or language minority,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, this lawsuit is a reminder of our commitment to securing equal opportunities in education for all Americans.”

“This lawsuit comes at a momentous time in the troubled history of Lafayette High School and demonstrates the United States’ commitment to protecting the rights of New York City’s students to be educated in an environment free of harassment and violence,” said Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “We are pleased that the city has agreed to take the steps set forth in the consent decree and are confident that these measures will substantially stem the tide of violence at Lafayette.”

Under the consent decree, which remains subject to court approval, the school district will implement an anti-harassment policy that addresses peer-on-peer harassment, provide training so that the defendants respond appropriately to harassment, and take proactive steps to minimize the likelihood of future harassment. In addition, the consent decree requires the school district reform the school’s English Language Learner (ELL) program to ensure, among other things, adequate assessment, placement, and academic counseling of ELL students. The consent decree also increases the opportunities for the parents of ELL students to be involved in their child’s education by requiring the school district to provide appropriate translation and interpreter services.

The case was brought by the Educational Opportunities Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in conjunction with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.