Friday, August 24, 2012

Civil rights complaint issued against Jefferson Parish school system

Many believe that poor academic performance among children is predominantly correlated with the level of involvement from parents. Sometimes, however, parents who exercise a low level of involvement do so through no fault of their own; there are instances when parents want to participate, but cannot, as is the case in some Jefferson Parish public schools, as reported by The Times-Picayune.

The allegations that have surfaced have the potential to expose severe infractions committed by a number of schools. Specifically, the plaintiffs—16 Latino students and their families—claim that various schools in the Jefferson Parish school system have failed to provide translation and interpretation services to Latino students, in addition to other omissions and abuses. Consequently, parents of limited English proficiency remain uninformed of school rules and procedures, unaware of school closures, and incapable of communicating effectively with teachers.

Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that school staffs have created a hostile learning environment. Some students have even complained about teachers using racial slurs during class and about school administration probing into their immigration statuses by forcing them to submit a social security number. If true, the Jefferson Parish School Board is in direct violation of the judgment rendered in Pyler v. Doe (1982), in which the Supreme Court ruled that entitlement to public education is not contingent upon immigration status.

In fact, the situation in that district has deteriorated so much that the Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a complaint with the US Department of Education and Homeland Security, citing violations of the Civil Rights Act and provisions of the Jefferson Parish School Board Charter. Regardless of the resulting legal action, the Jefferson Parish school system should enact the appropriate measures to eliminate discriminatory practices in schools. Alternatively, parents can partly overcome the issue by committing to learn the English language.

by Michael Oro, Contributor

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