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Justice Department Secures Agreement with Georgia School District to Protect Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities

June 25, 2024
Source: U.S. Justice Department

The Justice Department announced today a settlement agreement with Fulton County Schools in Georgia to resolve the department’s investigation of the district’s response to an escalating series of student-on-student sexual assaults on a school bus serving students with special needs. The department conducted its investigation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.

“A school district’s responsibility is to protect its students from sexual assault and harassment, particularly students whose disabilities make them vulnerable,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Schools have a responsibility to address obstacles in reporting sexual assault and to take into account the special needs or vulnerabilities of any affected students and their families. The Justice Department will continue working to ensure that our schools are safe learning environments free from sexual harassment and equitable for students with disabilities.”

“Children with disabilities can be especially vulnerable and deserve to thrive in a learning environment free of violence of any kind, including when traveling to and from school aboard buses,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan for the Northern District of Georgia. “We applaud the school district’s willingness to cooperate with our investigation and to amicably resolve this matter to ensure the protection and safety of these children.” 

The department’s investigation found that the district lacked adequate procedures and failed to train employees in the proper reporting of and response to student-on-student sexual harassment and assault; failed to appropriately accommodate the special needs of students with disabilities in preventing and responding to sexual assault; and failed to make educational and school communications, particularly those related to the complaint reporting and investigation process, accessible for parents and guardians with limited English proficiency. The agreement will strengthen the district’s policies and procedures for responding to student-on-student sexual assault and ensure that the district’s response accounts for the unique needs of students with disabilities and Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents.

The district cooperated with the department throughout the investigation. Among other actions, under the settlement agreement, the district will:

  • Revise its policies for responding to complaints of sexual misconduct;
  • Provide district staff with trainings on student-on-student sexual misconduct;
  • Ensure it provides students with disabilities the accommodations they need to participate in the district’s educational programs, particularly accommodations that support the communication needs of students with disabilities; and
  • Provide appropriate language assistance services to LEP parents and guardians.

The enforcement of Title IX, Title II and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act are top priorities for the Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at justice.gov/crt, and additional information about the Educational Opportunities Section’s work is available at justice.gov/crt/educational-opportunities-section. Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at civilrights.justice.gov.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia worked in collaboration with the Civil Rights Division’s Educational Opportunities Section to investigate this case. Information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia can be found at justice.gov/usao-ndga/about.

News source: justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-secures-agreement-georgia-school-district-protect-civil-rights-students

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