East Hartford Public Schools settles with US Dept. of Education over civil rights violation

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EAST HARTFORD–The United States Department of Education has reached an agreement with East Hartford Public Schools after civil rights violations were found during a compliance review.

The DOE Office of Civil Rights launched a compliance review in 2015, and while examining the district’s policies found several instances of bias, discrimination and noncompliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires districts to address language barriers and prohibits districts from discriminating based on national origin.

For example, parents and guardians who only spoke a limited amount or no English were told to get their own interpreters when registering their children for school. The district also didn’t attempt to assess if parents and guardians were in need of language services, instead making people ask for it.

Another major issue was that the district asked students who had different national origins, spoke different languages or were believed to have been born in another country for additional documentation during registration. Some of that included a request for a passport and social security card, which was not asked of other students.

Some of the other issues found included that fewer than half of registration and enrollment documents were translated into Spanish; the only written instructions provided for parents and guardians to get an interpreter were in Spanish and not other languages; and staff serving as interpreters weren’t properly trained on things like confidentiality.

“Through this agreement, East Hartford Public Schools has committed to correct its registration and enrollment process to ensure that its schools are open to all students and that it treats all its students fairly,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “We will continue to work with the district to implement this agreement and support the district’s efforts.”

Some of the ways the issues will be addressed include providing qualified interpreters and translations for all parts of registration and enrollment; issuing a “notice of language assistance” in the district’s top 10 most commonly spoken languages; ending the practice of asking for additional documentation from some students.

Read more about the agreement here and here.