Overview of OCR Compliance and Enforcment Program
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is responsible for enforcing five federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age by recipients of federal financial assistance. These laws are:
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting discrimination based on race, color and national origin);
- Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (prohibiting sex discrimination);
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (prohibiting disability discrimination);
- The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (prohibiting age discrimination); and
- Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (prohibiting disability discrimination by public entities, e.g., public elementary and secondary school systems, postsecondary schools, and vocational education programs, whether or not they receive federal financial assistance).
In addition, OCR enforces the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act. Under the Act, no public elementary school, public secondary school, or state or local education agency that provides an opportunity for one or more outside youth or community groups to meet on school premises or in school facilities shall deny equal access or a fair opportunity to meet, or discriminate against, any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America or any other youth group listed as a patriotic society in Title 36 of the United States Code.
These civil rights laws represent a national commitment to end discrimination in education programs. Since most educational institutions receive some type of federal financial assistance, these laws apply throughout the nation.
Coverage of these civil rights laws extends to:
- 14,859 school districts;1
- 4,197 colleges and universities;2
- 5,059 institutions conferring certificates below the associate degree level, such as training schools for truck drivers and cosmetologists;3 and
- thousands of other entities, such as libraries, museums, and vocational rehabilitation agencies.
Consequently, these civil rights laws protect millions of students attending or seeking to attend our educational institutions. In certain situations, the laws also protect persons who are employed or seeking employment at educational institutions. Overall, these laws protect:
- nearly 54.3 million students attending elementary and secondary schools;4 and
- nearly 16.4 million students attending colleges and universities.5
Enforcing these laws is critical to carrying out the mission of the U.S. Department of Education — ensuring equal access to education and promoting educational excellence throughout the nation.
In FY 2003, OCR's budget was $85,715,000, with full time equivalent (FTE) staff of 672. See Figure 1 on historical funding and FTE.
Figure 1: U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil RightsAppropriations, FTE & Workload DataFY 1993 – FY 2003