Updated 06/12/2012 05:45 PM
Advocacy groups file complaint against WCPSS over language discrimination
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RALEIGH -- Two advocacy groups filed a complaint Tuesday against the Wake County Public School System claiming discrimination against parents with limited English skills. The legal aid of North Carolina and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
The complaint is on behalf of three students and their families--one in sixth and two in ninth grade-- and describes how the school system didn't provide them important documents in Spanish.
Attorneys for the Advocates for Children's Services say they've given the WCPSS plenty of time to respond and remedy the violations. They say the system refused to commit to automatic translation of even the most crucial documents like long-term suspension and special education materials.
"They may be falling behind in school behind because their parent doesn't know how to get them services," said Attorney Peggy Nicholson, with the Advocates for Children Services.
The groups say Latino students and those with limited English proficiency make up more than 20 percent of the student population in Wake County and the language barrier doesn't allow non-English speaking students a meaningful opportunity to participate in education programs.
"A lot of those parents were not receiving certain documents in a language that they can understand. Which often caused trouble in requesting a hearing to appeal a suspension, or really understanding what services their children were entitled to,” said Nicholson.
They say the education system is required by various laws to provide important information in a language they can understand and they are not complying with those laws.
"In this case, we're hoping that what will come out of this is systemic change, policy change in the school system that will impact people far beyond the three people that we're representing," said Sean Driscoll of Legal Aid of North Carolina, another non-profit representing the parents.