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P.A.S.C.O. Coalition Responds to Settlement Agreement between DOJ and Pasco County School District

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (DOJ) announced a settlement agreement with the Pasco County School District last night to end discrimination against students with disabilities in school discipline, threat assessment practices, overuse of the Baker Act and referrals to law enforcement. Since 2021, the P.A.S.C.O. Coalition has called on the Department of Justice to investigate the school district’s relationship with local law enforcement and hold local leaders accountable for harmful surveillance and discipline practices that violate students’ rights.

“We celebrate this outcome with families and students with disabilities in Pasco County Schools,” the coalition said. “While this settlement agreement does not directly address the Pasco County Sheriff’s predictive policing program in Pasco County Schools, it ensures oversight and accountability for students with disabilities, which is sorely needed in the district. We remain concerned about the ongoing impact of the predictive policing program on Black and Brown students and urge the department to address the Sheriff's use of predictive policing programs in connection with Pasco County Schools threat assessments.”

The settlement agreement requires the district to end discriminatory disciplinary practices against students with disabilities — a group that faced a disproportionate risk of being targeted by the Sheriff’s predictive policing program, especially through the At-Risk Youth lists, a joint data collection effort by the district and sheriff. Under the agreement, the district will:

  • Ensure that district personnel accurately assess disability-related behaviors, identify appropriate interventions for those behaviors and monitor the implementation of those interventions;
  • Hire a consultant with expertise in behavior interventions who will assist in updating its policies and practices;
  • Update its student code of conduct, threat assessment process and process for calling law enforcement to ensure that the district is adequately considering disability-related behaviors and modifying its policies and procedures to avoid discrimination based on disability;
  • Improve data collection and analysis systems and regularly evaluate data to ensure students with disabilities are not excluded from school for disability-related behaviors through the district’s discipline, threat assessment and law enforcement referral practices;
  • Issue guidance clarifying that school safety guards should not be involved in addressing student behavioral issues except in situations constituting a serious threat to safety;
  • Conduct monthly data reviews on the rate and frequency of discipline, threat assessments, and referrals to law enforcement to identify disparities and take appropriate remedial action;
  • Develop appropriate training to help schools implement the agreement and respond appropriately to student behavior.