The Mercer County school district has three years to improve the way it identifies and educates those learning English as a second language under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
The school system must implement a broad changes meant to help students overcome language barriers. It is unclear what it will cost the district for the changes that include more training for teachers and closely monitoring students.
There were 17 students identified as having limited English proficiency during the 2010-2011 school year, according to data found on the state Department of Education's website. State school officials refused to comment because they were not involved in the settlement, and local school officials did not return calls.
The Justice Department found the district violated federal law by not providing appropriate services to students learning English as a second language. As part of the settlement, it agreed not to take the school district to court as long as the changes were made.
"Students who are not proficient in English are entitled to language acquisition services that ensure their equal and meaningful participation in educational programs," Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said in a release.
Such resolutions are not uncommon.
DOJ and the U.S. Department of Education settled with Boston Public Schools in 2010 after federal officials determined that the district had failed to properly identify and adequately serve thousands of English language learner students. Officials said the district labeled thousands of students as not needing ELL services when they had never tested the students to determine their level of English proficiency.