Federal investigation finds Peoria school district failed to address racial harassment

Oct 3, 2022, 4:25 AM
(Facebook Photo/Peoria Unified School District)...
(Facebook Photo/Peoria Unified School District)
(Facebook Photo/Peoria Unified School District)

PHOENIX — The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced Friday a resolution of a complaint after an investigation determined a West Valley school district failed to address harassment toward students.

The district will commit to providing support to students and educational programs on how to recognize harassment after the OCR concluded that Peoria Unified School District allowed students to experience widespread harassment on the basis of race, color and national origin, by neglecting to respond effectively or at all, the U.S. Department of Education said in a press release.

Teachers and administrators knew of the harassment, however, their actions allowed it to continue on a steady basis, creating a school-level hostile environment, the investigation revealed.

Peer harassment included explicit race-based slurs, such as using the n-word, mocking police killings of Black people and pulling their eyes back to mock Asian students.

Employees engaged in harassment by the repeated touching of and comments about a Black student’s hair, causing academic, social and emotional harm to the student who was the subject of the OCR complaint.

The investigation into the schoolwide hostile environment further revealed at least a dozen other students of color were likewise harassed based on race, color and national origin by numerous other students.

“Every student in every school deserves to learn free from discriminatory harassment,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon said in the release.

“Peoria Unified School District today commits to come into compliance with longstanding federal civil rights requirements, ensuring that district students learn from discrimination based on race or national origin.”

In an effort to follow the civil rights requirements (Title VI of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964), the district will also conduct a climate assessment to determine the hostile environment that has been created, issuing an anti-harassment statement while also issuing a notice to parents and looking at measures that aim to reduce harassment at school.

There will also be staff training about legal requirements under Title VI, cultural competency and implicit bias.

The resolution can be found online.

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Federal investigation finds Peoria school district failed to address racial harassment