U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

1995 Annual Report to Congress -- April 2, 1996

OCR Resolves Complaints of Illegal Discrimination

When a member of the public complains to OCR of discrimination, OCR gets to work. Because of improvements in how OCR does its job, OCR started work on virtually all complaints in FY 1995 within ten days. OCR knows that problems that are addressed immediately can often be resolved more amicably and less intrusively. Thus, OCR staff are on the telephone or on site as quickly as possible, working with parents and schools to identify and remedy problems of illegal discrimination. In cases where agency intervention is not appropriate, or where the facts provide an insufficient basis to find that there is illegal discrimination, OCR can also end its involvement more quickly.

OCR's new attitude and new approaches continue to produce results. OCR resolved 5,559 complaints of illegal discrimination in FY 1995, up from 4,480 in FY 1993. In almost 1,800 cases, schools, colleges and universities took corrective action that resolved any underlying problem of illegal discrimination. The public, on average, waited 119 days for OCR's resolution of a complaint in FY 1995, down from 131 days in FY 1993.

Fifty-four percent of all complaints received by OCR alleged discrimination based on disability. OCR enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, 29 U.S.C. 794 (implementing regulation at 34 C.F.R. Part 104), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. 12131 (implementing regulation at 28 C.F.R. Part 35), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

Parents of a Native American high school student with a disability (Dandy-Walker hydrocephalus) in the Klamath-Trinity Unified School District (California), for example, complained that their son was excluded from the regular school program because of his disability. The district was sending non-certified teachers to his home. OCR determined that the student should not have been excluded from attending school, and that his education had been severely affected. Because of the extended time the student had been inappropriately kept from attending school, and because the student was already a sophomore, the district agreed to remedy its past inaction by forming a trust to fund the student's future evaluations, transitional services, and his enrollment in a postsecondary program. Illegal discrimination was ended, and a strong, educationally sound remedy put in place.

At the postsecondary level, a complaint was filed against Salem State College (Massachusetts) alleging a violation of Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The complainant charged the College discriminated against him by not making necessary academic adjustments. The complainant has a language-based learning disability that affects his processing of oral and written information. His requests for several adjustments, including untimed testing, note takers, and access to lecture notes prior to attending classes, were denied. Following OCR's intervention, Salem State repaid $1,020 toward the complainant's tuition loan. Salem also is implementing new procedures so that students requesting academic adjustments are assisted promptly. As a result of becoming educated on this issue, Salem is now voluntarily assisting Massachusetts' other public colleges to develop methods for promptly and appropriately determining appropriate adjustments for students with disabilities.

Twenty percent of complaints received in FY 1995 alleged illegal discrimination on the basis of race or national origin. OCR enforces Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin, 42 U.S.C. 2000d et seq. (implementing regulation at 34 C.F.R. Parts 100 and 101).

One student at Purdue University (Indiana), for example, complained to OCR that his ability to participate in the university's educational program had been threatened by racial harassment. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), an educational institution may be held responsible for racial harassment if the harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile environment and the institution fails to respond adequately. After working with OCR, the University agreed to the need to develop procedures for enforcing its anti-harassment policy. The University decided to establish a "DiversiTeam" consisting of faculty, students and staff who were specially trained to offer workshops for all recognized student organizations, fraternities, sororities, cooperative houses and residence halls during the 1994-95 academic year. The University's actions ensure that the approximately 36,000 students on its main campus, and the 33,000 students on its regional campuses, are able to benefit from its educational programs regardless of their race or national origin.

Seven percent of complaints received in FY 1995 alleged illegal discrimination on the basis of sex. OCR enforces Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs, 20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq. (implementing regulation at 34 C.F.R. Part 106).

OCR investigated a complaint filed against the Chicago Public Schools, District No. 299 (Illinois), for example, and found that few female students at the elementary level participated on the district's interscholastic elementary teams. The district was not making sufficient efforts to provide athletic opportunities for female athletes at that level. In addition, OCR found the district was not meeting the interests of female high school athletes. In response to OCR's findings, the district is now providing a post-season softball tournament and a volleyball camp for girls, and has agreed to establish interscholastic volleyball competition for girls at the elementary level. In subsequent years, the district has also agreed to establish additional teams and sports until girls' interests and abilities in athletic competition are fully met.

OCR's remaining complaints were filed on multiple discrimination bases, on age discrimination or on other discrimination bases. OCR also enforces the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, 42 U.S.C. 6101 et seq. (implementing regulation at 34 C.F.R. Part 110).

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