Charlotte – A North Carolina school system is defending itself against the accusations of two civil rights defense groups that it discriminates against the families of Hispanic students by not providing information in Spanish.
In a letter sent on Tuesday to the Wake County Public Schools System, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Advocates for Children's Service threaten to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education if changes are not made.
The groups are handling three cases in particular of limited English proficient, or LEP, parents who did not receive important information regarding the suspensions of their children, the appeals process and special education options in their native language.
"By providing these important documents in English to English-speaking parents, yet failing to provide them in Spanish to Spanish-speaking parents, WCPSS has discriminated against these students and violated federal and state law," the organizations said.
Hispanics make up 15 percent of the WCPSS' 146,000 students.
"This issue is not only about protecting the civil rights of students and parents, but also about the mission, vision, and core beliefs of Wake County schools," Jason Langberg, an attorney for Advocates for Children's Services, a project of Legal Aid of N.C., said in a statement.
"We have been proactively engaging all students and families in the Wake County Public School System, including those in the Latino community," Superintendent Tony Tata said in a response to the letter.
"As a district, WCPSS has developed relationships with key community groups, leaders and media partners to support the needs of our Spanish-speaking families," he said.
Meanwhile, Maria Rosa Rangel, WCPSS liaison for Hispanics, told Efe that school authorities will communicate with the families who have presented the complaints to seek solutions to their concerns.
"It took us by surprise because we have 27 translators, the majority of them Hispanics, who work in our schools. The commitment to these families has been a priority," Rangel emphasized.
The SPLC and ACS are suggesting specific measures that the school system should adopt to be able to comply with the law including hiring personnel who speak Spanish to work exclusively in disciplinary situations.
However, Rangel emphasized to Efe that the WCPSS has translated into Spanish the documents related to the suspension process for students, the student manual, information about registering in schools and other materials.
"For more than 10 years we have coordinated those efforts," the spokesperson told Efe.
The WCPSS has 10 days to respond to the complaints before the organizations contact the Civil Rights Office of the U.S. Department of Education.