Complaint alleges bias by New Orleans school officials

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Legal advocates asked the Justice Department on Friday to investigate their claims that New Orleans school

officials discriminate against the parents of Asian-American and Latino students by failing to provide them with adequate

translation and interpretation services.

"The lack of clear communication channels

has a severe impact on the ability of (limited English proficient)

parents to engage

in and monitor their children's academic performance," lawyers for

the parents alleged in a complaint filed against the Orleans

Parish School Board, the Recovery School District and three

charter school operators.

Representatives of the school board and RSD didn't immediately respond to calls seeking comment on the complaint.

Attorneys for the Vietnamese American Young

Leaders Association and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education

Fund filed

the complaint on behalf of Vietnamese- and Spanish-speaking

parents. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said it has

received the complaint and will review it.

The Justice Department's civil rights

division already is investigating similar allegations by the Southern

Poverty Law Center

that Jefferson Parish public schools discriminate against Latino

students. In its August 2012 complaint, the SPLC accused

the suburban New Orleans district of failing to provide adequate

translation services to Latino students and their parents.

Thomas L. Mariadason, an attorney for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the group has been coordinating

its efforts with the SPLC.

"This is a persistent problem for both the Vietnamese community and the Latino community going back before (Hurricane) Katrina,"

Mariadason said of the 2005 storm, which flooded most of New Orleans and spawned an ambitious effort to reform the city's

troubled public schools.

"The involvement of parents has a significant impact on the outcomes of students," he added.

Parents are routinely forced to use their children as interpreters to communicate with school staff members, the complaint

claims.

"Nearly every Complainant reported feeling hesitant to solicit information on their children's academic progress, health,

or social well-being because interpretation support was inconsistent, inadequate, or nonexistent," it says.

The complaint accuses school officials of

violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Charter operators Collegiate

Academies,

Einstein Group Inc. and Advocates for Academic Excellence in

Education also are named as targets of the complaint's allegations.