Durham Public Schools

Latino students in Durham, N.C, public schools were subjected to pervasive discrimination throughout the school district. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights on behalf of these students. The SPLC eventually reached an agreement with Durham Public Schools to end the discriminatory practices.

The Southern Poverty Law Center initially submitted a letter to the district’s superintendent demanding an end to the discrimination. The letter, sent on behalf of more than 6,000 students with limited English proficiency (LEP) and their families, described discrimination that includes a high school teacher pushing a Latino student against the wall and telling the student to “go back to your own country.” At the same high school, a teacher used a slur against Latino students.

The school district also had only three Spanish language interpreters for more than 5,300 students whose primary language is Spanish. Under federal law, the school must provide these students and their families with access to interpreters and important school documents in a language they can understand. The district failed to comply with the law.

After the school district issued a vague and non-committal response to the letter, the SPLC filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. The SPLC reached an agreement with the Durham Public Schools system, which pledged to strengthen its anti-discrimination policy and to create new policies that will ensure thousands of non-English speaking students and their families are not excluded from education programs.

The agreement included translating important documents and other parental notifications into the native language of a student’s parents. The district also agreed to provide interpreters to assist parents with limited English proficiency in understanding documents and other parental notifications.