Wake County Schools

Feds to investigate civil rights complaint against Wake schools

Posted July 5, 2012

— The U.S. Department of Education says it is launching a civil rights investigation into allegations that the Wake County Public School System might be discriminating against Latinos.

Legal Aid of North Carolina and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint last month, claiming official school documents are not adequately translated for Spanish-speaking parents of Latino students, which they said violates federal law.

The complaint names three Latino students who were informed in English that they were being given long-term suspensions. Letters in English were sent home to their parents, who couldn't read them, the groups claim.

Legal Aid said Thursday that the education department's Office of Civil Rights agreed in a letter last week to investigate the complaint.

"This is good news for all Latino students in Wake County schools whose parents have limited English proficiency," said Peggy Nicholson, an attorney representing the students in the complaint. "We hope this investigation results in the Wake County Public School System adopting new policies and practices that better enable all parents to play a more meaningful role in their children’s education."

Latinos account for about 15 percent of the district's student population, with about half of those children having limited proficiency in English.

The school system said last month that the district is reviewing its practices to be sure it's meeting the needs of families and is eager to work with the Office of Civil Rights to resolve the complaint.

It isn't the first encounter for the school system with the Office of Civil Rights, which is also looking into whether the district's controversial student assignment policy is unfair to low-income students.

Last month, the district also settled a Title IX complaint stemming from athletic opportunities for female students.


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  • TarHeelBrit Jul 6, 2012

    I only have three words to say "Learn The Language".

  • US Born Jul 6, 2012

    jbengel....sorry, one would think that if your children are going to school you would want to be able to communicate with their schools and teachers, and maybe even help them with their studies. I guess all parents don't feel that way....right? Of course, this is just my way of thinking being a mother of 2 and grandmother of 4 school age chilren.

    You have a great weekend!

  • jbengel Jul 6, 2012

    @randall0123a: Learning English is a requirement for naturalization as a citizen, but NOT a requirement for residing in the country -- legally. Moreover, my Vietnamese coworker who came to the US in 1975 or 76, put herself through a BA program at Northeastern, and was naturalized in the early 1980s STILL asks me for help with certain words and phrases. After a certain age, the human brain becomes far less able to assimilate a new language.

  • jbengel Jul 6, 2012

    @obamaout: I didn't suggest anyone in particular, but now that I read your comments I wonder who the "them" might be that "we cloth and feed".

    By the way, the word you wanted was "clothe".

  • randall0123a Jul 6, 2012

    For those missing the facts about why most have come to the conclusion that these parents are not legal US citizens. AGAIN (and again), a requirement to gain US citizenship is to:
    Have the ability to read, write, speak, and understand simple words and phrases in English. http://www.visaus.com/citizen.html

    If they are not legal US citizens, then why are their children attending public schools paid for by legal, tax paying US citizens?

  • US Born Jul 6, 2012

    I am under no such assumption... however, I do think if they are going to live in the US and their children go to school here they should ALL learn to read, write and understand English. Seems to be what others do when they relocate to our country so if they are going to live here I don't think that's asking to much. And I don't like making a phone call and being asked to press 1 for English and 2 for Spanish...I LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES AND WE SPEAK ENGLISH.

  • jbengel Jul 6, 2012

    Interesting how many comments here are based on the assumption that the parents and/or children are in the country illegally. Very curious.

  • Bartmeister Jul 6, 2012

    Blah blah blah.

  • US Born Jul 6, 2012

    And those of us that are US Born Tax Paying Citizens will have to pay for this! This has got to stop, we already cloth and feed them and their children!

  • Naysayer Jul 5, 2012

    What a gigantic waste of the taxpayers' money.