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

Annual Report to Congress Fiscal Year 1998

Responsibilities of the Office for Civil Rights

The ideals behind this and other civil rights legislation are ones we all should strive for--building a society that celebrates the differences and abilities of its citizens.--Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley

The OCR is the agency within the United States Department of Education (ED) that regulates and enforces civil rights laws against discrimination in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. In limited cases, the OCR carries out this role for the 18 other federal agencies that have delegated their civil rights compliance activities to the agency. The OCR's authority is derived from the Department of Education Organization Act, 20 U.S.C. 3401, et seq.

The OCR enforces five laws that prohibit discrimination on the bases of race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age. They are:

These widespread civil rights laws reach virtually the entire scope of education in this nation, as nearly all education institutions in the nation - from elementary through graduate or professional schools - receive federal financial assistance. The OCR's broad coverage extends to activities, practices and policies of:

A staggering number of students and others are affected by the OCR's work. Our statutory responsibilities cover these people:

The focus of the agency is on the provision of equal access to programs and services to students and to student applicants. Although people seeking employment in education, or those already employed by schools and colleges, are generally protected under the OCR's statutes, the agency's authority over employment cases is limited. We refer the great majority of the employment cases in education to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The OCR also carries out civil rights provisions for the Magnet Schools Assistance program (Title V, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act). In the last fiscal year, for example, we reviewed magnet school applications and provided civil rights assistance to these applicant schools.

[Guaranteeing Equal Access to High-Standards Education] previous icon Table of Contents next icon[How the OCR Does its Work]