Authorities with the Adams County School District 14 in Commerce City, Colorado, announced an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education after the federal agency’s Office for Civil Rights issued a report documenting discrimination against Latinos in the majority Hispanic district.
The OCR launched an investigation of the district following a March 2010 complaint.
Between June 2008 and June 2012, “Hispanic students, teachers, and administrators experienced national origin harassment that was sufficiently serious to deny or limit an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges provided by the District,” the Education Department said in its report, released April 25.
The OCR faulted Adams 14 for a lack of serious intentions to communicate with the students’ parents who did not speak English in a district where 90 percent of the 7,300 students are Latinos, most of them from poor families.
In July 2012, local authorities named Patricio “Pat” Sanchez to be the new superintendent of Adams 14.
Sanchez implemented numerous changes, including hiring bilingual personnel at all levels in the district, cancelling the prohibition on the use of Spanish and establishing an advisory council of Hispanic parents.
But the effects of discrimination still remain and many parents still don’t know whether or not they can trust the district, if the implemented reforms will be lasting or if they can really use the new channels of communication established to field complaints and prevent acts of discrimination, Sanchez told Efe.
The agreement with the Education Department includes hiring an outside consultant who is an expert on bilingual and multicultural educational matters, interviewing parents and students, creating a database for discrimination complaints and training all students and employees about the new anti-discrimination policies.
“Please be assured that if we are made aware of any alleged harassment or discrimination, we will take steps to effectively respond to those allegations. Investigations will occur promptly,” Sanchez said in an open letter to Adams 14 students, parents and staff.