The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday that its Office for Civil Rights has entered into a resolution agreement with Dearborn Public Schools to resolve a proactive enforcement action initiated at the district in April 2010.
Following an investigation, OCR found that the district did not meet the requirements of civil rights laws in providing national origin-minority, limited English proficient (LEP) parents with meaningful access to important information about their children’s education in a language they can understand.
The district did not adequately notify LEP parents of important school-related information that is made available to non-LEP parents. In addition, OCR found that the
district denied English language learner (EL) students, on the basis of their national origin, access to the district’s nonacademic and extracurricular programs, services and activities, such as guidance and counseling services.
The agreement is intended to resolve those concerns. “Like many districts throughout the country with diverse populations, Dearborn faces a real challenge of ensuring meaningful communication with parents of limited English proficiency, while also ensuring equal access for all English Language Learner students to the programs, services and activities provided by their schools,” said Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights.
“We appreciate the district’s cooperation with OCR to identify the steps necessary to address these challenges for its LEP parents and EL students.”
Under the agreement, the district will: Revise its home language survey to ensure that it accurately identifies all of the LEP parents in the district needing language assistance; Develop and implement a comprehensive, written plan to provide language assistance services to LEP parents that ensures that they have meaningful access to the district’s programs and activities; the plan will include providing interpreting and translation services for LEP parents for all non-English languages (this could include the use of various services, such as onsite translators/interpreters, telephonic translators/interpreters, and effective translation programs); Develop and implement a process for notifying EL students about the availability of nonacademic and extracurricular programs, services and activities, such as guidance and counseling services; Conduct an annual evaluation of the effectiveness of its language assistance services for LEP parents; and, Develop and implement procedures to ensure that EL students receive special education and related services as appropriate to their disabilities, if any, and not because of their English language proficiency.
OCR will actively monitor the district’s implementation of the resolution agreement until it has determined that the district has fulfilled the terms of the agreement and is in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in all programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Likewise, Section 504 bars discrimination on the basis of disability, and Title II outlaws discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities in all programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
In a response to the U.S Education Department, Dearborn Public Schools has issued the following statement.
“We have put a plan in place to address all items requested by the Office of Civil Rights and are committed to meeting the needs of all students and parents,” commented Dearborn Public Schools Superintendent Mr. Brian Whiston. According to the district, they already have several Parent Liaisons and other staff members who speak Arabic and provide assistance to non-English speaking parents and students. To improve services to the largely Arabic speaking population a person will be hired to coordinate on-site translation efforts ensuring these services are easily accessible and readily available, the school board also stated.
In the 2010-2011 school year, the district had 19,118 students. Half of the district’s 30 schools have a majority Arabic student population. Sixty percent of the students (11,753) are EL; 11,240 (95.6 percent) of them identified their home language as Arabic.
The remaining 513 EL students (4.4 percent) represented 46 other home languages, including Urdu, Spanish, Albanian and Romanian. These students were enrolled in schools throughout the district. Enforcement of Title VI is a top priority of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.