Today the Justice Department announced a settlement agreement with the Charleston County School District to resolve its investigation into complaints that the school district failed to communicate essential information to thousands of Spanish-speaking, limited English proficient (LEP) parents, denying their children full and equal access to the district’s education programs and services. The Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina conducted the investigation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.
The United States’ investigation found that the district often fails to use qualified interpreters to communicate with Spanish-speaking, LEP parents and guardians, even when their need for an interpreter is documented or otherwise evident. The United States also found that the district does not consistently translate essential written information into Spanish, and asks parents who can only communicate in Spanish to make important decisions about school programs and services without explaining the options in a language they understand.
“Empowering parents and guardians with the information necessary to meaningfully participate in their children’s education is critical to students’ success in school and beyond. We must continue the work to ensure that all parents have this opportunity, regardless of national origin or English proficiency.” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We are encouraged by the Charleston County School District’s commitment and cooperation and look forward to continuing to work with the district to implement this agreement and fulfill its promise of equal treatment for all of the district’s students and their parents.”
“The Charleston County School District should be commended for its cooperation with this investigation and for its commitment to its students, parents and guardians,” said Acting U.S. Attorney M. Rhett DeHart for the District of South Carolina. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office looks forward to continue working with the school district, as it strives to be a model for other districts in providing full and equal access to information.”
The district cooperated at every stage of the investigation and committed to improving its practices through revised policies and professional development. The settlement agreement requires the district to use qualified interpreters and translators to communicate with parents about matters essential to their children’s education and to cease relying on family members, untrained staff and students for such purposes. The district will also provide LEP parents with access to documents and information about program offerings, including special education services, in a language they understand. The agreement requires the district to provide these interpretation and translation services for LEP parents and guardians at each of its 80 schools and programs.
Under the agreement, the district will:
- Implement effective policies and procedures and provide employees with training so that schools properly identify and meaningfully communicate with LEP parents and guardians;
- Ensure that all parents and guardians knowingly consent to or decline educational programming and services for their children; and
- Contact LEP parents and guardians prior to holding special education-related meetings to notify them of the right to have a qualified interpreter at the meeting and translated special-education related documents, at no cost to the parent/guardian.
The enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 is a top priority of the Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt, and additional information about the work of the Educational Opportunities Section is available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/educational-opportunities-section. Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at https://civilrights.justice.gov/report/.