On July 3, 2012, OCR closed a complaint against the Ontario-Montclair School District (District). The complaint alleged that students were required, on the basis of their African American race, to participate in an African-American-themed mentoring and support program at a District elementary school. The school had launched an African-American-themed mentoring and support program in the 2007-2008 school year, in response to significant gaps in the academic performance of African American students as a group on the state assessment test compared to the performance of their peers of other races and ethnicities as groups. The school ended the program in 2009, after the complainant raised concerns with School officials and then OCR. In the resolution letter, OCR stated that it is not a violation of federal law, in and of itself, for a district to operate a race-themed mentoring and support program. In this case, however, the mentoring and support program at issue was set up in a manner that had the effect of excluding students on the basis of their race by inviting only African American students to participate (notwithstanding that students of other races who asked to participate were allowed to join). Such race-exclusive recruiting differs fundamentally from race-targeted recruiting, in which a district may intentionally target students of particular races, such as those underrepresented at a particular school or program, for recruitment. Race‑targeted recruiting seeks to ensure that students from particular groups are aware of opportunities, but it does not exclude others from being recruited. Race‑targeted recruiting that is part of a wider effort to recruit students in general, without regard to race, is unlikely to be subject to strict scrutiny review to be permissible under Title VI. OCR found, however, that it need not decide whether the District’s program at the school complied with Title VI because the proper resolution was an administrative closure on the basis of mootness.
the Resolution Letter PDF (225K)