Government, Higher Education, and Law

Feds erroneously name school district in enrollment investigation

May 9, 2014
| By AP |
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Editor's note: This story was updated late Friday afternoon to indicate that Kentwood Public Schools was not the subject of a federal investigation.

A local school district is not among more than a dozen being investigated by federal education officials for possible violations of a requirement to enroll children brought into the U.S. illegally.

Kentwood Public Schools originally was listed as one of 14 individual schools or districts nationwide that the Education Department said Thursday was being investigated, after complaints.

Children brought into the U.S. illegally are guaranteed the right to a K-12 education under the 1982 Supreme Court decision Plyler v. Doe.

District officials disputed that claim, however, and sought an explanation from the federal government.

The district then released the following statement late Friday afternoon:

"Kentwood Public Schools is committed to being in compliance with all federal and state guidelines. As a result, when an AP story inaccurately listed the district as being under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights, district officials quickly contacted the federal agency to seek clarification. Representatives from the Federal Office of Civil Rights confirmed late in the day that Kentwood Public Schools is not under investigation and apologized for the confusion that led to the inaccurate story."

Michael Zoerhoff, district superintendent, said the district is "committed to operating with excellence in all that we do, and so we were glad to see that this was a misunderstanding. When the story emerged, we immediately sought out the agency leadership."

Zoerhoff went on to note the importance he places on the Office of Civil Rights.

“Students from around the world enroll in our district for an education of excellence where diversity of thought and culture is not just talked about but reflected in the scope of our community," Zoerhoff said. "Make no mistake, in today’s world, we believe that the Federal Office of Civil Rights does important work for our community and our country.”

The district said that it's "a global learning community," with students representing more than 60 different countries and with one of the largest number of Advance Placement courses in the Kent County.

The district says on its website that it has about 8,500 students in 16 buildings.

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