JEFFERSON PARISH, La. (WGNO) — A decision has been made by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to open an investigation into reports of discrimination throughout the Jefferson Parish School System.

The lawsuit is based on a complaint made in May by the Southern Poverty Law Center stating the school system failed to protect Black and brown students, English Learner students and students with disabilities from discrimination.

The complaint alleged the school system violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

“It is our hope that this investigation will lead to much-needed reforms that affirm and preserve the rights of students of color, emergent multilingual students and families, and students with disabilities,” said SPLC Senior Supervising Attorney Luz Lopez.

The ongoing investigation will focus on the alleged discrimination surrounding the recent school closure in the parish including the disproportionate impact on Black and Latino students. Amid the investigation, the law center is working to preserve a school found by the Black community during the days of Jim Crow, Washington Elementary STEM School.

The board voted the close the school in April with plans to demolish. But on Aug. 10, the community group Supporters of Washington Elementary STEM School Inc. purchased the property for $1 to preserve its history.

“SPLC supports the work of the community to save Washington Elementary. We are urging the school board to accept the Supporters’ offer on behalf of the community,” said SPLC Staff Attorney Ashley Dalton.

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