Discrimination alleged in Lafayette schools discipline, officials confirm

Civil Rights Office looking into race-based complaint made against Lafayette system

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is investigating a race-based discrimination complaint filed against the Lafayette Parish School System, confirmed an Education Department spokesman Monday.

“OCR is currently investigating a Title VI case involving this district that focuses on whether the district discriminated against black students on the basis of race with respect to discipline practices,” said Raymonde Charles, U.S. Department of Education deputy press secretary. “As this case is under investigation, OCR cannot share any further details.”

The Office of Civil Rights enforces federal civil rights laws. The complaint lodged against the Lafayette Parish School System is an alleged violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination based on race, color or nationality in programs that receive federal funding.

Lafayette Parish Schools Superintendent Pat Cooper said he was unable to share specifics about the complaint but said it’s related to the discipline of one student.

“It is a race-based complaint about discipline — about the fact that Lafayette Parish disproportionately disciplines black youth. That’s the crux of it. This complaint is only about one child and one incident,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the district was notified of the complaint last month and has until July 31 to provide the federal office the information requested about the incident.

While the federal office asked for specific information related to the single incident, Cooper said, his staff is conducting its own examination of districtwide discipline data.

“Are minority kids disciplined more than others — and if so, are there reasons for that?” Cooper asked. “We’re doing our own independent look at this, while OCR is looking at this one individual incident.”