Justice Department Settles Discrimination Investigation with Pasco County School District in Florida

The Justice Department resolves an investigation into alleged discrimination against students with disabilities in school discipline, threat assessment practices, and law enforcement referrals within the Pasco County School District in Florida.

Discrimination Uncovered in School Practices

The investigation, conducted under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), uncovers routine suspension and law enforcement involvement for disability-related behavior that could have been addressed through proper support.

The district’s threat assessment process is also flagged for systematic failure to consider the relationship between a student’s disability and behavior.

Unnecessary Law Enforcement Referrals

Students with disabilities facing threat assessments often experience unnecessary referrals to law enforcement, leading to arrests or involuntary admissions to mental health facilities under Florida’s Baker Act.

Agreement to End Discriminatory Practices

The settlement agreement mandates the Pasco County School District to cease discriminatory practices, ensuring students with disabilities receive fair treatment in threat assessments and avoid unwarranted arrests or mental health facility admissions.

Ongoing Monitoring by the Justice Department

The Justice Department commits to monitoring the district’s implementation of the agreement and continues oversight through the enforcement of an existing desegregation order covering the district.

Justice Department’s Commitment to Equality in Education

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke emphasizes the commitment to disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline, ensuring equal academic opportunities for all students, and combating practices pushing students out of the classroom.

District’s Cooperation and Commitment to Improvement

The Pasco County School District cooperates with the department’s investigation and pledges to enhance services for students with disabilities.

The district commits to hiring a behavior interventions expert, updating policies, conducting appropriate training, and improving data collection systems.

Enforcement of ADA a Top Priority

The enforcement of Title II of the ADA remains a top priority for the Civil Rights Division, with a focus on preventing discrimination based on disability in public schools.

Collaboration for Investigation

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida collaborates with the Civil Rights Division’s Educational Opportunities Section to investigate the case.

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