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U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Resolves Racial Harassment Investigation of Beecher Community Unit School District 200U in Illinois

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The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that the Beecher Community Unit School District 200U, near Chicago, entered into an agreement to ensure compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when responding to racial harassment of students.  

OCR examined whether the District responded adequately to racial harassment of a Black student at a District school over the course of the 2021-22 school year. The harassment included gratuitous images of the Confederate flag that were included in repeated classroom PowerPoint presentations, a Snapchat message circulated during the school day that  called a Black person the n-word and dehumanized the person by saying “It was here to deliver” an item without a complete investigation or response from the District, and a white student who identified himself as “nighas” during a classroom activity using the online platform Kahoot that the teacher did not address, among other allegations of ongoing harassment. 

The student reported further incidents during the 2022-23 school year, including frequent use of the n-word, a classroom activity using an online platform where a white student identified himself as “Ni99er,” and white students shaking the school bus as Black students were exiting. This persisting harassment resulted in the student attending school remotely.

OCR identified concerns that the District:

  • Did not conduct adequate investigations of possible racially harassing conduct; 
  • Did not appear to consider the totality of the circumstances and the cumulative effects of the racial harassment; and
  • Did not appear to take steps reasonably designed to prevent the harassment from recurring and remedy the effects of the harassment on students.

The resolution agreement commits the District to take steps to ensure that students enrolled at the school are not subjected to a hostile environment on the basis of race.  

The important steps Beecher Community Unit School District 200U has agreed to take to address and prevent racial harassment are designed to ensure that their full school community will learn in the nondiscriminatory environment federal law promises to them, said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon.

The District’s commitments in the resolution agreement include: 

  • Taking prompt and appropriate responsive action to investigate the allegations that the student and other Black students were harassed on the basis of race during the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years, and remedy the effects of racial harassment on the students, such as offering compensatory education, counseling, and reimbursement for documented private educational expenses for the student’s alternative education, counseling and/or psychological support; 
  • Providing all school administrators, faculty, and staff with annual training on the District’s policies and procedures that address racial discrimination and harassment; 
  • Providing training to all school employees who receive, or are directly involved in processing, investigating and/or resolving complaints or other reports of discrimination or harassment on the basis of race; 
  • Providing a mandatory, annual, age-appropriate orientation session for all school students on the District’s policies and procedures prohibiting racial discrimination and harassment; 
  • Developing a school climate survey to administer to students at the school to ensure the school is free of racial harassment; and 
  • Maintaining documents relating to specific complaints or other reports of racial harassment of students to ensure that its files contain all information necessary to process complaints under Title VI.

The letter to Beecher Community Unit School District 200U is available here and the resolution agreement is available here.

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