Blog: Latino Ed Beat

DOJ Reaches Settlement with Florida School District

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Palm Beach County School District in Florida have reached a settlement agreement following complaints that the school district discriminated against immigrant families.

The department had been investigating complaints that the school system failed to enroll children based on their immigration status and that its disciplinary actions discriminated against students based on their immigrant status or limited English proficiency.

The Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society and the Florida Equal Justice Center filed the complaints against the district in August 2011, the Florida Sun Sentinel reported, saying that two teenagers were not able to register at Boca Raton High School because they lacked documents. The department had also investigated complaints that immigrant children and ELLs were suspended and arrested for offenses that were minor and not violent.

About 20,000 ELLs are district students.

In a statement, Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, said that the agreement would remove barriers to student enrollment, and promote an inclusive environment.

The district must agree to enroll all students, no matter their immigration status. The district must provide translation services during the enrollment and disciplinary process.

The Justice Department has previously cautioned school districts that they must enroll undocumented immigrant children who reside within their boundaries, due to the Supreme Court’s Plyler v. Doe decision.

School district spokesman Nat Harrington told the Palm Beach Post that the district was happy to reach an agreement.

“We remain committed to treating all of our students fairly regardless of their language, backgrounds or their parents’ status,” he said.