Justice Department, Clay County School District reach agreement for students learning English

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — The Justice Department announced on Monday that it reached an agreement with the Clay County School District regarding an issue to teach students English who weren’t fluent in the language.


According to an investigation by the department, Clay County schools did not provide students with the language instructions needed to become fluent in English. County schools also failed to provide non-English speaking parents with important school information that they could properly understand.

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With the failure to properly teach English learning students the skills necessary to become fluent, students “could not meaningfully participate in core content classes, like math, science and social studies and did not receive individualized academic and behavioral supports that are available to their peers,” a Justice Department news release read.

The Justice Department said this is a right to protect the Civil Rights of English learner students.

“Students who are learning English have the right to engage in coursework alongside their peers, and schools must take action necessary to make that right a reality,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said. “The Justice Department will continue to hold schools accountable when they fail to deliver on our collective promise of equality. This agreement will help ensure that English learner students in Clay County are given the tools necessary to succeed and strive in the classroom.”

Read: Clay County parent responsible for more than one-third of all Florida book challenges

But an agreement was reached and the Clay County School District fully cooperated with the department’s investigation and its findings. The priority by both sides is “committed to improving its services for English learner students.” The Justice Department said that Clay County agreed to revise its policies and improve its services so that students can learn English and fully participate in the district’s educational experience.

In the agreement, the school district will proactively screen students prior to enrollment and provide language services if needed. Teachers will also be properly trained so they can provide effective education for English learner students to become fluent in the language.

“We are pleased that the Clay County School District has agreed to embrace its obligation to meet the language needs of its English learners so that students can learn English and fully participate in the district’s educational experience,” U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg for the Middle District of Florida said in a statement. “Equal access to educational opportunities is at the heart of civil rights protections for our youth and students are entitled to equal access despite any language barriers they may have.”

Clay County District Schools also offered this statement concerning the agreement:

“The District was contacted in 2019 regarding support services for English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). The District continues to work through our Title III and ESOL Department to ensure our teachers are certified and trained in strategies that successfully support and teach ESOL students while simultaneously teaching students the English language. Our current program has been approved by the state of Florida, and the District stands prepared to continue building upon the success of our current English Learner Program and expand the program through the implementation of additional coaching and support.”

—  Clay County School District

To view information on the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 and additional information about the Civil Rights Division click here.

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