Bedford County school leaders working to resolve federal civil rights complaint

Alleged 'racially hostile environment' at Jefferson Forest High School

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – Bedford County Public Schools has shared the steps it will take a resolve a complaint alleging that the division violated federal civil rights laws.

As 10 News previously reported, the Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education opened an investigation into an alleged "racially hostile environment" at Jefferson Forest High School.

On Monday, the school division shared a copy of a resolution agreement in regard to the OCR complaint. The agreement details the steps that the school and division will take to resolve the complaint, including that OCR may visit the school division and interview staff and students.

The division stated that the agreement is not an admission that they violated any laws enforced by OCR.

Bedford County Public Schools released a statement Friday, saying it "firmly believes that it has not violated any federal civil rights laws."

The division said it will comply with the investigation, providing data and information to OCR as needed.

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.

10 News has summarized the main points of the resolution agreement:

1. The division will conduct a "refresher training" for Jefferson Forest High School administrators regarding the "procedures for handling complaints of racial and national origin harassment."

2. The division will evaluate all reports of racial and national origin harassment at the school during the 2018-2019 school year to determine if the division needs to take additional steps and investigate the reported incidents further.

3. The division will give all students at Jefferson Forest High School a "climate survey" to assess the extent and impact of any racial and national origin harassment, including harassment via social media. As part of the resolution agreement, the survey must be given to students by Dec. 31, 2019.

4. The division will review the results of the climate survey and the results of the investigations to determine if, as the complaint alleges, a "racially hostile environment" exists at Jefferson Forest High School. If the division determines that in fact, a hostile environment existed, whether for one student or for the school as a whole, it will look to "assess whether additional remedies or corrective actions are necessary to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment and its effects, and prevent the harassment from recurring."

5. The division will make sure that school staff, students and parents receive information about the division's policies and Code of Student Conduct, especially the policies and portions of conduct code that refer to racial and national origin harassment.

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