US Dept. of Education investigating 'racially hostile environment' at Bedford County school

School division maintains it didn't break any federal civil rights laws

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – An office within the U.S. Department of Education is opening an investigation into an alleged "racially hostile environment" at Jefferson Forest High School, according to Bedford County Public Schools.

The school division released a statement, saying it "firmly believes that it has not violated any federal civil rights laws."

The Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education notified the school division earlier this year about the investigation, according to Bedford County Public Schools.

The school division stated that it has complied with OCR's requests for information related to the allegation.

It is not clear what incident or incidents could have prompted this investigation. Bedford County Public Schools did not explicitly mention an incident.

As 10 News reported in February, controversy ensued after photos that appeared to be of Jefferson Forest students carrying Confederate flags as part of a school "spirit week" went viral on social media.

Read the full release from Bedford County Public Schools:

"Earlier this year, Bedford County Public Schools received notice from the Office for Civil Rights ("OCR") of the United States Department of Education that it was opening an investigation into an alleged racially hostile environment at Jefferson Forest High School.  The school division firmly believes that it has not violated any federal civil rights laws.  Upon receiving the notice, the school division promptly complied with OCR's request for information and records related to the allegations. 

"Even before receiving the notice of investigation from OCR, the school division had already taken steps to reduce incidents of racial bias, to foster a positive community, and to eliminate disparities in all areas of school life and academic achievement through its work with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.  In addition, the school division has conducted additional training for administrators on topics of recognizing, reporting, and investigating complaints of harassment and discrimination.  These important efforts are ongoing.

"Consistent with this commitment, rather than devoting resources to the OCR investigation, the school division has chosen voluntarily to employ those resources to its ongoing efforts to combat racial discrimination and harassment and to promote diversity and inclusion by entering into a Resolution Agreement with OCR.  The requirements of the Resolution Agreement are congruent with and will positively enhance the school division's ongoing commitment to battle incidents of racial bias and to foster a positive community for all students."

-- statement from Bedford County Public Schools

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