The Wake County school system is now facing the threat of another federal civil rights complaint.
In this letter sent today to Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Advocates for Children’s Services charge that the school system is violating the civil rights of students with Spanish-speaking parents by only sending them important notices in English. The letter cites examples of three limited English proficient parents not getting information in Spanish about their children’s long-term suspension notices and special-education services.
The groups contend that failure to provide the parents of these Hispanic students the information in their primary language violates Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act. The groups charge that Wake “has a clear legal duty” to provide documents on suspensions and special education in Spanish to Spanish-speaking parents.
The groups request Wake implement a variety of changes to avoid having a complaint filed, including:
* Hire a Spanish-speaking staff member to work exclusively on discipline-related matters.
* Develop a website in Spanish that mirrors both the Office of Student Due Process website and the Special Education Services website.
* Provide all parents and guardians whose primary language is Spanish with forms, packets and information related to special-education, suspension or expulsion in Spanish.
* Provide training to all staff on the rights of LEP students and parents. Training shall also be provided to all LEP students and parents, in their primary languages, on their rights.
In terms of the Title VI complaint that was filed by the NAACP, Wake is waiting to hear back from the investigators from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
Here's Wake's response:
In response to media inquires about a letter sent today by the Advocates for Children’s Services and the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Wake County Public School System would like to inform our community about the many efforts to engage and inform all families in our district.
“We have been proactively engaging all students and families in the Wake County Public School System, including those in the Latino community. As a district, WCPSS has developed relationships with key community groups, leaders and media partners to support the needs of our Spanish-speaking families. From our Spanish-language Parent Academies to our recent International Family Conference, we continue to engage families and communicate with them in ways that lead to understanding,” Superintendent Tony Tata said.
WCPSS efforts to engage and inform Latino and Spanish-speaking families include:
· For nearly a decade, WCPSS has hosted parent training and annual outreach events in six languages: Arabic, French, English, Korean, Spanish, Chinese. WCPSS also recently hosted its annual International Family Conference.
· WCPSS coordinates with Spanish-language media, as well as English-language media with Latino audiences, to communicate with families about key initiatives, including newcomer enrollment, back to school, enrollment, school choice, parent involvement, parent academies and other programs. The district has long-established partnerships with outlets including Qué Pasa, La Conexión, Univisión TV and La Ley FM radio station.
· Our Center for International Enrollment (CIE) office is staffed with bilingual customer service representatives to help families with questions. Most of the district’s walk-in customers speak Spanish and have limited English proficiency.
· The district provides Spanish language versions of most communications, including student handbooks, information about a student’s due process, the availability of special education and academically gifted education, information on the ESL program and other community resources at wcpss.net and in person at school facilities.
· WCPSS provides translation and interpretation services to every customer of the district.
· The district collaborates with ESL teachers at individual schools to communicate key messages to non-English speaking families.
· WCPSS also works closely to develop relationships with community agencies that serve Latino and Spanish-speaking clients to engage leaders in the community, to encourage parents to become involved in their child’s education and to build positive experiences for parents communicating with the district, despite any language limitations they may face.
Recent efforts regarding the WCPSS student assignment plan:
WCPSS worked with Latino and Spanish-language media to inform Spanish-speaking families about the recent student assignment process.
Our student assignment website , brochures and informative videos are available in Spanish.
Bilingual customer service representatives were available at all times to answer questions.
WCPSS hosted nine community outreach events and 27 Spanish language presentations on the plan.
WCPSS walked several families through the selection process during mobile enrollment events.
Staff called the homes of hundreds of Spanish-speaking families in April to invite them to recent mobile enrollment and school selection events.
Univisión hosted a 30-minute Spanish language TV special on the new student assignment plan before Choice Round 1, featuring MariaRosa Rangel, Senior Administrator for Family and Community Engagement.
WCPSS also worked with the Center for Hispanic Families, Mexican Consulate, churches, representatives from the housing authority and other agencies to coordinate community outreach events.
The district conducted a targeted, door-to-door outreach to inform Spanish-speaking families about Kindergarten registration and Choice Round 2.