Responsibilities of the Office for Civil Rights
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education (Department) is a law enforcement agency charged with enforcing federal civil rights laws to ensure that educational institutions receiving federal financial assistance do not engage in discriminatory conduct. OCR enforces the federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the bases of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department. These laws are:
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibits race, color, and national origin discrimination);
- Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs);
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (prohibits disability discrimination);
- Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (prohibits age discrimination); and
- Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (prohibits disability discrimination by public entities, including public school districts, public colleges and universities, public vocational schools, and public libraries, whether or not they receive federal financial assistance).
In addition, OCR enforces the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, which is part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Under this law, no public elementary or secondary school or state or local education agency that provides an opportunity for one or more outside youth groups or community groups to meet on school premises or in school facilities shall deny equal access or a fair opportunity to meet to, or discriminate against, any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, or any other youth group listed in Title 36 of the United States Code as a patriotic society, that wishes to meet at the school.
OCR is composed of a headquarters office, located in Washington, D.C., and 12 enforcement offices representing 12 regions in the United States and its territorial jurisdictions. In Washington, D.C., the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights provides overall leadership, policy development, and coordination of enforcement activities. The enforcement offices are responsible for investigating and resolving complaints of discrimination, conducting compliance reviews, monitoring corrective actions agreements, and providing technical assistance. The majority of OCR’s staff is assigned to the enforcement offices, which are located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Dallas, Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle.