Wake County Schools

Feds to investigate civil rights complaint against Wake schools

Posted July 5, 2012 3:18 p.m. EDT
Updated July 5, 2012 6:43 p.m. EDT

— 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.