Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Toledo Public Schools to Resolve Complaints of Race and Disability Discrimination in Student Discipline

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio today announced a settlement agreement with the Toledo Public Schools to address and prevent discriminatory discipline of students based on race or disability and to require appropriate language services for limited English proficient (LEP) parents on matters essential to their children’s education.  

The agreement follows a federal civil rights investigation into complaints of discriminatory treatment of African-American students and students with disabilities in school suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement agencies. The department also investigated allegations concerning the district’s communications with parents and guardians with language barriers. The school district cooperated fully throughout the investigation, which was conducted under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.

“Discrimination against students because of their race or disability has no place in our country’s public schools,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “A student’s race or disability should never mean receiving harsher punishment in school. Such practices are unfair and unlawful, and they deny students equal access to the educational opportunities that are critical to success in school and beyond. We look forward to continuing to work with the Toledo Public Schools to implement this settlement and fulfill its promise of equal treatment for all of the district’s students.” 

“Federal law does not allow schools to discipline students because of their race or disability or to deny access to essential school-related information to parents and guardians with language barriers,” said Justin Herdman, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “We applaud the district for its cooperation during our investigation and for its commitment to ensure that students are not denied learning opportunities because of their race, disability, or national origin. We look forward to working cooperatively with Toledo Public Schools to implement this agreement, as the district puts in place behavioral supports and services to increase opportunities for student learning.”

Under the settlement agreement, the district will take proactive steps to ensure its discipline practices do not discriminate against students based on race or disability. The district will, among other things, regularly review how schools handle discipline incidents to ensure non-discriminatory treatment, expand its use of positive behavior supports, and provide appropriate training and resources to help schools implement the agreement, including training for teachers, administrators, and school safety officers. In addition, for parents and guardians with language barriers, the district will ensure it communicates essential school-related information in a language that they understand so their children can access the district’s instructional programs.     

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the ADA. Enforcement of Title II of the ADA in schools, Title IV of the Civil Rights Act, and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act are top priorities of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt, and additional information about the work of the Educational Opportunities Section is available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/educational-opportunities-section.  Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at https://civilrights.justice.gov/report/.

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Author: July 31, 2020

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