Feds Blast Colorado School District For Years Of Discrimination

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One of the largest school districts in Colorado had for years created a hostile and discriminatory environment for Hispanics, going so far as to forbid Spanish from being spoken even during lunch and between classes, according to a recently completed federal investigation.

“Through our investigation, we determined that the district created a hostile environment toward Hispanic students and staff, failed to communicate effectively with [Spanish-speaking] parents in a language and manner that they understand,” the report concluded.

The culture existed at Adams 14 school district from 2008-2012, investigators from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights determined. Discrimination was found to have existed at several schools, including elementary and high school. The investigation was spurred by an official complaint in 2010.

In one incident, a kindergarten student who didn’t speak English was denied medical attention when he injured his head on the playground. The teacher he approached didn’t speak Spanish “and dismissed the student’s complaint when he did not explain his injury to the teacher in English” despite having a visible bloody gash on his head.

He was later taken to the hospital  and received stitches after complaining of his wound to a Spanish-speaking teacher.

At Monaco Elementary School, a former principal forbade Spanish-speaking teachers from speaking the language with students or parents: He instructed them to relay any questions presented in Spanish to the principal’s office. The principal refused to comment to investigators, other than to say she “did all I could for those people.”

The principal at Hanson Elementary School explained why he ordered the removal and destruction of Spanish-language educational material from a specific classroom by saying he “had the task of ‘eradicating the native language,’” according to the report.

Yet another principal at Central Elementary allegedly told a Hispanic staff member not to worry about Hispanic kids being messy in the restroom “because Mexicans are poor, that Mexicans didn’t use toilet paper, there are few restrooms in Mexico and Mexican children didn’t know how to use a restroom.”

Ten staff members at Central Elementary reported to investigators that the principal was “rude, unprofessional and cruel to Hispanic students, parents and staff.”

The 24-page report also details allegations that Hispanic teachers were harassed into resigning and that supervisors worked to eliminate programs like science classes taught by bilingual teachers for the sake of ESL students. Investigators said that district officials hampered the investigation by requiring Hispanic teachers who were negotiating employment settlements to sign nondisclosure agreements barring them from disparaging the school district. These agreements were signed while the investigation was ongoing and they prevented investigators from interviewing some former Hispanic staff members.

Current and former district officials denied all of the allegations contained in the report.

The district’s newest superintendent told Denver’s 9News that the district is making changes to better deal with complaints.

“Since I started to where I am, 20 months later, we’ve done a lot of good work to reestablish trust, ” Superintendent Pat Sanchez told the station. “The vision of the board is to really have a school district that to put it very simply the community’s proud of.”

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