Office for Civil Rights
2000 Annual Report to Congress
Some OCR Priority Activities
Higher Education Desegregation
During FY 2000, OCR resolved the compliance status of three states that previously operated racially segregated higher education systems. Central to the process was applying the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Fordice. In this case, the Supreme Court set out standards for determining whether states have met their obligations to dismantle all remnants of their prior segregated systems under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Title VI.
The result of OCR's partnership with Kentucky is an agreement that provides for the continued enhancement of the state's historically black institution (Kentucky State University), improvement of the campus climate at the historically white institutions, and the recruitment and retention of African American students throughout the state. Also, all universities in the Commonwealth are to improve programs to help disadvantaged middle school students prepare for college.
The agreement reached with Texas strengthens Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern, the state's historically black institutions. For example, 10 new academic programs will be added at Texas Southern and eight at Prairie View. These include doctoral programs in Electrical Engineering, Juvenile Forensic Psychology, Educational Leadership, Urban Planning and Environmental Policy, Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Administration of Justice.
The partnership agreement with Maryland, formally signed after FY 2000 ended, also calls for the continued enhancement of its four traditionally black institutions and measures to encourage enrollment, retention and graduation of African American students at the traditionally white institutions. A cornerstone of the agreement is the avoidance of unnecessary program duplication, a particular challenge because of the close proximity of Maryland's traditionally black and traditionally white institutions.
As a result of successful development of these agreements, only one of the original 19 cases involving states that previously operated racially segregated higher education systems remains unresolved. OCR's negotiations with Virginia continue in FY 2001, the last of OCR's open higher education desegregation cases.
Northern Tier Initiative
This initiative focuses on racial harassment and discipline issues affecting American Indian students in the northern tier of the midwestern states. OCR undertook this effort because a variety of sources reported that there was a racially hostile environment for American Indian students residing near reservation border towns. OCR initiated compliance reviews in two Minnesota school districts that resulted in commitments from both districts to ensure that American Indian students are not treated differently from other students in disciplinary actions and are not subjected to harassment by their peers or district staff. Both districts also agreed to work in partnership with their local Tribal Councils during the implementation of the agreements. OCR has been advised that American Indian children in the two districts feel there have been improvements since the districts began implementing their agreements.
Magnet Schools Assistance Program
The Magnet Schools Assistance program (MSAP), administered by the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, provides assistance to school districts that are seeking to improve educational programs and to reduce, prevent or eliminate minority group isolation. The three-year grant program provides funds for the enhancement or establishment of magnet schools. The assistant secretary for civil rights is required to certify the civil rights eligibility of applicants for MSAP funds and annually review school district grantees' progress in meeting their desegregation goals. During FY 2000, OCR reviewed the annual reports of 54 grantees, provided technical assistance, and certified new three-year awards for four school districts.
Postsecondary Racial Harassment Initiative
This multi-year initiative is an effort to address racial harassment and campus climate that may create barriers to high-quality education at postsecondary education institutions in the northeast United States. About 28 percent of the nation's colleges and universities are located in the northeast. Over the past several years, OCR has noticed an increase in the number of racial harassment complaints. Data also link racial incidents to campuses where social, cultural and academic environments are, or are perceived as, hostile to minority students. The initiative uses a number of strategies, including compliance reviews and technical assistance, to educate schools and students and to focus attention on this critical access issue.
Equal Opportunity in Vocational Education
Under OCR's Vocational Education Programs Guidelines, state vocational education agencies are responsible for conducting certain civil rights compliance activities with their sub-recipient schools and programs and reporting to OCR about these activities. State vocational education agency reports of civil rights reviews and other compliance activities are submitted biennially to OCR. OCR's analysis of 33 required reports indicated that state agencies conducted over 200 on-site civil rights compliance reviews of sub-recipient vocational education schools and programs during the 1999-2000 school year. Most of the state reviews resulted in recommendations for improving student access to vocational programs on the basis of race, national origin, sex and disability. OCR responded to the state agency reports by providing constructive suggestions for enhancing the effectiveness of the agencies' compliance activities. In spring 2000, OCR presented four capacity-building workshops for state agency civil rights staff (one workshop in each of OCR's four divisions). These workshops provided training in general compliance review techniques and discussions of compliance issues such as Section 504/ADA accessibility for students with disabilities, services for English language learners, and improving student participation in programs that are non-traditional based on sex. In addition, the workshops fostered networking and collaboration among staff of the participating state agencies. Participants later reported that the workshops provided valuable information and contacts to help enhance the effectiveness of their civil rights compliance programs.
The characteristics typical of urban school systems--high incidence of poverty, crime, drugs and violence, inadequate financial resources, and poor academic performance--continue to impose significant barriers to equal access to high-quality education programs. In 1998, because of the high concentration of minority students in large East Coast cities, OCR began a multi-year urban education initiative to address issues of equal access in that setting. In FY 2000, OCR achieved resolution of a particularly complex urban case. The school district comprised 95 percent minority students and was burdened by constantly changing leadership (eight school superintendents in 10 years). The highlights of OCR's resolution agreement included implementation of a uniform curriculum throughout the district so that all students, including English language learners and those with disabilities, would have access to the same educational opportunities. The agreement also included the provision of professional development for teachers and staff to address racial climate issues.
Civil Rights Survey of All Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
The Elementary and Secondary School Civil Rights Compliance Report (E&S Survey) is a collection of education- and civil rights-related data about the nation's public elementary and secondary schools. Conducted approximately every two years since 1968, most years the E&S Survey sampled one-third of the nation's approximately 15,000 school districts. In 2000, for the first time since 1976, OCR collected the data from all of the nation's school districts. The results of the 2000 Survey will provide a more accurate and comprehensive set of data for use by OCR in case resolutions and by educators, researchers and policymakers, and will permit cross-references and overlays with the 2000 Census data.
OCR streamlined the 2000 E&S Survey process to provide better support to school districts collecting these data and faster access for data users and customers. OCR believes that, for the first time, the majority of school districts were able to respond to the E&S Survey in electronic, instead of paper, form. Electronic data submission will result in more efficient, accurate data collection. During FY 2000, OCR also supplemented its telephone help-desk service with a Web site to provide direct online advice and assistance to school district staff completing the 2000 E&S Survey. Through these and other improvements, OCR is reducing the burden of data collection and delivering better, faster data.
Collaborative Data Collection
During FY 2000, OCR and other Department of Education offices successfully piloted a new data collection method giving states the option to respond to most of the Department's data needs regarding elementary and secondary students with disabilities in a single, unified data submission. For several years, OCR has been working with the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, the National Center for Education Statistics, and the Council of Chief State School Officers to develop this new, optional data collection, which will reduce data burdens for individual schools and school districts in those states choosing to participate. Beginning fall 2001, states will have the option of providing their data on students with disabilities to the Department in a single data submission.