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Thursday December 14th 2017

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Escambia County School District faces federal investigation


The Escambia County School District has been notified that it is under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education for allegations related to the alleged hazing incident involving players on the West Florida High football team.

Ellison Bennet delivered to Inweekly a letter from OCR, dated April 12, to Ms. Karen Broughton, the mother of one of the boys involved in the incident, stating the agency plans to investigate three of the allegations in her complaint.

Specifically, OCR will investigate whether her son, Brice Boughton, was treated differently on the basis of race when the District charged him with battery, proposed his explosion with an option for disciplinary reassignment, and brought criminal charges against him last October. (A hearing officer, ruled in the boy’s favor earlier his year).

The agency will investigate whether the District’s actions – including delayed hearings, a school board member advocating rejection of the hearing officer’s findings, and soliciting a FHSAA ruling on the boy’s eligibility tor track – were retaliation against the student.

OCR will also investigate whether the District retaliated against Ms. Broughton, a teacher, when the District’s attorney emailed her “with threats of potential ethical charges; and in October 2016, the School Board Member (Jeff Bergosh) made comments on his blog entry calling her ‘ignorant’ and ‘glib.’”

The agency said, “OCR is currently investigating a system-wide allegation of whether the District discriminates against African-American students on the basis of race in the administration of another complaint.”

The public has not been made aware of that investigation. Earlier this month, OCR opened a civil rights investigation into the Pinellas County School District, which made the front page of the Tampa Bay Times.

OCR did state in its letter to Ms. Broughton that the investigation of her allegations in no way imply that the agency has made a determination with regard to merit.

Andrea de Vries, OCR Compliance Team Leader, told her that the District had been advised to not harass, coerce, intimidate or discriminate against any individual because he or she had filed a complaint or participated in the complaint resolution process.

Here is the letter: OCR_Letter.