Individuals who believe their civil rights have been violated by a school district may file a complaint
with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
OCR is charged with enforcing federal civil rights laws to ensure that educational institutions receiving federal financial assistance do not engage in discriminatory conduct. Those laws include Title IX, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
n the last two years, OCR has received record numbers of complaints. Specifically, OCR reported receiving more than 5,200 K-12 discrimination complaints in 2021, and 2022 surpassed that number, according to published reports.
Upon receiving a complaint, OCR evaluates any written information received by the complainant to determine whether it constitutes a complaint that warrants further investigation. Generally, OCR will notify the school district of any complaint received and request additional information, such as board-adopted policies, training materials, emails, telephone call logs or other similar documents for analysis. OCR uses a variety of fact-finding techniques, including witness interviews and a review of documentary evidence.
At the conclusion of its investigation, OCR will make a determination as to each allegation. Typically, OCR endeavors to correct – rather than punish – districts that have run afoul of the law through a corrective action plan and monitoring. However, the most egregious offenses may result in a reduction or withdrawal of federal funding.
Luisa D. Bostick and Lindsay A. Menasco, Hodgson Russ, LLP