Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Public School System failed to provide adequate translation and interpretation services for Spanish-speaking parents with limited English proficiency (LEP). The school system provided school notices, such as notices of long-term suspensions and special education materials, in English to English-speaking parents but failed to provide this information to Spanish-speaking parents in Spanish. This failure discriminated against these students and violated state and federal law.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint against the school district with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The complaint describes how LEP parents of Latino students are unable to read and understand important school notices written in English. They also are unable to communicate effectively with school staff because of the lack of interpretation services. M.V., a 7-year-old Latino student, had to translate for his mother at his parent-teacher conference, because the school did not have an onsite translator. M.V. had a difficult time translating the teacher’s messages and resorted to telling his mother that the “teacher said he was doing fine.”
The complaint also describes how the school system’s staff has created a hostile learning environment for Latino students, routinely interrogating them about their citizenship status as a condition of enrollment in and graduation from Jefferson Parish schools. C.K., a rising sophomore, sought a transfer from his high school because of widespread hostility. A teacher called him a “wetback” during class, but school officials failed to take any action against the teacher or remove C.K. from the teacher’s classroom.
The SPLC complaint included statistical evidence gathered by the Equal Rights Center (ERC), which showed that support for Spanish language speakers was inadequate in the district. This information was gathered by the ERC through its nationally recognized civil rights testing methodology. The ERC data also revealed a school system where attempts to communicate in Spanish were met with outright hostility and frustration.
Latino students comprise 17 percent of the district’s student population, and LEP students are 8 percent. Federally funded school districts are required by various laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to provide LEP parents with important information in a language they can understand. This also requires that schools not condition enrollment or graduation from a public school on a students’ citizenship or immigration status.