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Racial Incidents and Harassment Against Students

Federal Register / Vol. 59, No. 47 / Thursday, March 10, 1994 / Notice

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
OFFICE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

RACIAL INCIDENTS AND HARASSMENT
AGAINST STUDENTS AT EDUCATIONAL
INSTITUTIONS; INVESTIGATIVE GUIDANCE

ACTION: Notice of investigative guidance.

SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights announces investigative guidance, under title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that has been provided to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Regional Directors on the procedures and analysis that OCR staff will follow when investigating issues of racial incidents and harassment against students at educational institutions. The investigative guidance incorporates and applies existing legal standards and clarifies OCR's investigative approach in cases involving racial incidents and harassment.

EFFECTIVE DATE: March 10,1994.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeanette J. Lim, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., Room 5036 Switzer Building, Washington, DC 20202-1174. Telephone: (202) 205-8635. Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the TDD number at (202) 205-9683 or 1-800421-3481.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (title VI), 42 U.S.C.2000d et seq., prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. The Department of Education (Department) has promulgated regulations in 34 CFR part 100 to effectuate the provisions of title VI with regard to programs and activities receiving funding from the Department. The regulations in 34 CFR 100.7(c) provide that OCR will investigate whenever a compliance review, report, complaint, or any other information indicates a possible failure to comply with title VI and the Department's implementing regulations. The Department has interpreted title VI as prohibiting racial harassment.

The existence of racial incidents and harassment on the basis of race, color, or national origin against students is disturbing and of major concern to the Department. Racial harassment denies students the right to an education free of discrimination. To enable OCR to investigate those incidents more effectively and efficiently, a memorandum of investigative guidance has been distributed to OCR staff. The substance of this memorandum and the accompanying legal compendium are being published today with this notice to apprise recipients and students of the legal standards, rights, and responsibilities under title VI with regard to this issue.

The guidance outlines the procedures and analysis that OCR will follow when investigating possible violations of title VI based upon racial incidents and harassment. The guidance relies upon current legal standards.

Dated: March 7,1994.

Norma V. Cantu,
Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.

Investigative Guidance on Racial Incidents and Harassment Against Students

This notice discusses the investigative approach and analysis that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) staff will follow when investigating issues of discrimination against students based on alleged racial incidents including incidents involving allegations of harassment on the basis of race that occur at educational institutions. This guidance is supplemented by a corresponding compendium of legal resources for detailed legal citations and examples.

Under title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (title VI) and its implementing regulations, no individual may be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination on the ground of race, color or national origin under any program or activity that receives Federal funds. Racially based conduct that has such an effect and that consists of different treatment of students on the basis of race by recipients' agents or employees, acting within the scope of their official duties, violates title VI. In addition, the existence of a racially hostile environment that is created, encouraged, accepted, tolerated or left uncorrected by a recipient also constitutes different treatment on the basis of race in violation of title VI. These forms of race discrimination are discussed further below.

Jurisdiction

In all cases, OCR must first decide whether it has jurisdiction over claims involving racial incidents or harassment. Under the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, OCR generally has institution-wide jurisdiction over a recipient of Federal funds.

If an institution receives Federal funds, title VI requirements apply to all of the academic, athletic, and extracurricular programs of the institution, whether conducted in facilities of the recipient or elsewhere. Title VI covers all of the uses of property that the recipient owns and all of the activities that the recipient sponsors. Title VI covers all of these operations, whether the individuals involved in a given activity are students, faculty, employees, or other participants or outsiders.

Standard Different Treatment by Agents or Employees

As with other types of discrimination claims, OCR will first apply a standard different treatment analysis to allegations involving racial incidents perpetrated by representatives of recipients. Under this analysis, a recipient violates title VI if one of its agents or employees, acting within the scope of his or her official duties, has treated a student differently on the basis of race, color, or national origin in the context of an educational program or activity without a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason so as to interfere with or limit the ability of the student to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges provided by the recipient. In applying this standard different treatment analysis, OCR staff will address the following questions

  1. Did an official or representative (agent or employee) of a recipient treat someone differently in a way that interfered with or limited the ability of a student to participate in or benefit from a program or activity of the recipient?
  2. Did the different treatment occur in the course of authorized or assigned duties or responsibilities of the agent or employee?
  3. Was the different treatment based on race color, or national origin?
  4. Did the context or circumstances of the incident provide a legitimate, non-discriminatory, non-pretextual basis for the different treatment?

Where, based on the evidence obtained in the investigation, questions 1-3 are answered "yes" and question 4 is answered "no," OCR will conclude that there was discrimination in violation of title VI under this standard different treatment analysis. If questions 1,2 or 3 are answered "no," or if questions 1 through 4 are answered "yes," OCR will find no violation under this theory. If warranted by the nature and scope of the allegations or evidence, OCR will proceed to determine whether the agent's or employee's actions established or contributed to a racially hostile environment as described below. OCR also will conduct a "hostile environment" analysis where actions by individuals other than agents or employees are involved.

Hostile Environment Analysis

A violation of title VI may also be found if a recipient has created or is responsible for a racially hostile environment i.e., harassing conduct (e.g., physical, verbal, graphic, or written) that is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent so as to interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges provided by a recipient. A recipient has subjected an individual to different treatment on the basis of race if it has effectively caused, encouraged accepted, tolerated or failed to correct a racially hostile environment of which it has actual or constructive notice (as discussed below).

Under this analysis, an alleged harasser need not be an agent or employee of the recipient, because this theory of liability under title VI is premised on a recipient's general duty to provide a nondiscriminatory educational environment.

To establish a violation of title VI under the hostile environment theory, OCR must find that: (1) A racially hostile environment existed; (2) the recipient had actual or constructive notice of the racially hostile environment; and (3) the recipient failed to respond adequately to redress the racially hostile environment. Whether conduct constitutes a hostile environment must be determined from the totality of the circumstances, with particular attention paid to the factors discussed below.

Severe, Pervasive or Persistent Standard

To determine whether a racially hostile environment exists, it must be determined if the racial harassment is severe, pervasive or persistent. OCR will examine the context, nature, scope, frequency, duration, and location of racial incidents, as well as the identity, number, and relationships of the persons involved. The harassment must in most cases consist of more than casual or isolated racial incidents to establish a title VI violation. Generally, the severity of the incidents needed to establish a racially hostile environment under title V varies inversely with their pervasiveness or persistence.

First of all, when OCR evaluates the severity of racial harassment, the unique setting and mission of an educational institution must be taken into account. An educational institution has a duty to provide a nondiscriminatory environment that is conducive to learning. In addition to the curriculum, students learn about many different aspects of human life and interaction from school. The type of environment that is tolerated or encouraged by or at a school can therefore send a particularly strong signal to, and serve as an influential lesson for, its students.

This is especially true for younger, less mature children, who are generally more impressionable than older students or adults. Thus, an incident that might not be considered extremely harmful to an older student might nevertheless be found severe and harmful to a younger student. For example, verbal harassment of a young child by fellow students that is tolerated or condoned in any way by adult authority figures is likely to have a far greater impact than similar behavior would have on an adult. Particularly for young children in their formative years of development, therefore, the severe, pervasive or persistent standard must be understood in light of the age and impressionability of the students involved and with the special nature and purposes of the educational setting in mind

As with other forms of harassment, OCR must take into account the relevant particularized characteristics and circumstances of the victim especial] the victim's race and age when evaluating the severity of racial incidents at an educational institution If OCR determines that the harassment was sufficiently severe that it would have adversely affected the enjoyment of some aspect of the recipient's educational program by a reasonable person, of the same age and race as the victim, under similar circumstances, OCR will find that a hostile environment existed. The perspective of a person of the same race as the victim is necessary because race is the immutable characteristic upon which the harassment is based. The reasonable person standard as applied to a child must incorporate the age, intelligence and experience of a person under like circumstances to take into account the developmental differences in maturity and perception due to age.

To determine severity, the nature of the incidents must also be considered. Evidence may reflect whether the conduct was verbal or physical and the extent of hostility characteristic of the incident. In some cases, a racially hostile environment requiring appropriate responsive action may result from a single incident that is sufficiently severe. Such incidents may include, for example, injury to persons or property or conduct threatening injury to persons or property.

The size of the recipient and the location of the incidents also will be important. Less severe or fewer incidents may more readily create racial hostility in a smaller environment, such as an elementary school, than in a larger environment, such as a college campus. The effect of a racial incident in the private and personal environment of an individual's dormitory room may differ from the effect of the same incident in a student center or dormitory lounge.

The identity, number, and relationships of the individuals involved will also be considered on a case-by-case basis. For example, racially based conduct by a teacher even an "off-duty" teacher, may have a greater impact on a student than the same conduct by a school maintenance worker or another student. The effect of conduct may be greater if perpetrated by a group of students rather than by an individual student.

In determining whether a hostile environment exists, OCR investigators will also be alert to the possible existence at the recipient institution of racial incidents other than those alleged in the complaint and will obtain evidence about them to determine whether they contributed to a racially hostile environment or corroborate the allegations.

Finally, racial acts need not be targeted at the complainant in order to create a racially hostile environment. The acts may be directed at anyone. The harassment need not be based on the ground of the victim's or complainant's race, so long as it is racially motivated (e.g., it might be based on the race of a friend or associate of the victim). Additionally, the harassment need not result in tangible injury or detriment to the victims of the harassment.

If OCR finds that a hostile environment existed under these standards, then it will proceed to determine whether the recipient received notice of the harassment, and whether the recipient took reasonable steps to respond to the harassment.

Notice

Though the recipient may not be responsible directly for all harassing conduct, the recipient does have a responsibility to provide a nondiscriminatory educational environment. If discriminatory conduct causes a racially hostile environment to develop that affects the enjoyment of the educational program for the student(s) being harassed, and if the recipient has actual or constructive notice of the hostile environment, the recipient is required to take appropriate responsive action. This is the case regardless of the identity of the person(s) committing the harassment a teacher, a student, the grounds crew, a cafeteria worker, neighborhood teenagers, a visiting baseball team, a guest speaker, parents, or others. This is also true regardless of how the recipient received notice. So long as an agent or responsible employee of the recipient received notice, that notice will be imputed to the recipient.

A recipient can receive notice in many different ways. For example, a student may have filed a grievance or complained to a teacher about fellow students racially harassing him or her. A student, parent, or other individual may have contacted other appropriate personnel, such as a principal, campus security, an affirmative action officer, or staff in the office of student affairs. An agent or responsible employee of the institution may have witnessed the harassment. The recipient may have received notice in an indirect manner, from sources such as a member of the school staff, a member of the educational or local community, or the media. The recipient also may have received notice from flyers about the incident(s) posted around the school.

In cases where the recipient did not have actual notice, the recipient may have had constructive notice. A recipient is charged with constructive notice of a hostile environment if, upon reasonably diligent inquiry in the exercise of reasonable care, it should have known of the discrimination. In other words, if the recipient could have found out about the harassment had it made a proper inquiry, and if the recipient should have made such an inquiry, knowledge of the harassment will be imputed to the recipient. A recipient also may be charged with constructive notice if it has notice of some, but not all, of the incidents involved in a particular complaint.

In some cases, the pervasiveness, persistence, or severity of the racial harassment may be enough to infer that the recipient had notice of the hostile environment (e.g., a racially motivated assault on a group of students). A finding that a recipient had constructive notice of a hostile environment meets the notice requirement of the analysis.

If the alleged harasser is an agent or employee of a recipient, acting within the scope of his or her official duties (i.e., such that the individual has actual or apparent authority over the students involved), then the individual will be considered to be acting in an agency capacity and the recipient will be deemed to have constructive notice of the harassment. If the recipient does not have a policy that prohibits the conduct of racial harassment, or does not have an accessible procedure by which victims of harassment can make their complaints known to appropriate officials, agency capacity and thus constructive notice is established.

The existence of both a policy and grievance procedure applicable to racial harassment (depending upon their scope, accessibility and clarity, and upon the acts of harassment) is relevant in the determination of agency capacity. A policy or grievance procedure applicable to harassment must be clear in the types of conduct prohibited in order for students to know and understand their rights and responsibilities. As discussed above, in the education context, the person from whose perspective the apparent authority of an agent or employee of a recipient must be evaluated is a reasonable student of the same age, intelligence and experience as the alleged victim of the harassment.

Finally, in order to find that the recipient had a duty to respond to notice of a racially hostile environment, OCR must examine the facts and circumstances to establish that the recipient knew or should have known that the conduct was of a racial nature or had sufficient information to conclude that it may have been racially based. OCR will consider whether the incident involved explicitly racial conduct or whether the circumstances indicate that, through symbols or other persuasive factors, the recipient should have recognized that the conduct was in fact, or was reasonably likely to have been, racial (e.g., the hanging of nooses, random violence against minorities, etc.).

Recipient's Response

Once a recipient has notice of a racially hostile environment, the recipient has a legal duty to take reasonable steps to eliminate it. Thus, if OCR finds that the recipient took responsive action, OCR will evaluate the appropriateness of the responsive action by examining reasonableness, timeliness, and effectiveness. The appropriate response to a racially hostile environment must be tailored to redress fully the specific problems experienced at the institution as a result of the harassment. In addition, the responsive action must be reasonably calculated to prevent recurrence and ensure that participants are not restricted in their participation or benefits as a result of a racially hostile environment created by students or non-employees.

In evaluating a recipient's response to a racially hostile environment, OCR will examine disciplinary policies, grievance policies, and any applicable anti-harassment policies. OCR also will determine whether the responsive action was consistent with any established institutional policies or with responsive action taken with respect to similar incidents.

Examples of possible elements of appropriate responsive action include imposition of disciplinary measures, development and dissemination of a policy prohibiting racial harassment, provision of grievance or complaint procedures, implementation of racial awareness training, and provision of counseling for the victims of racial harassment.

Conclusion

OCR will investigate allegations of racial incidents where the incidents fall within its jurisdiction. Based on the facts and circumstances of each case OCR will use either or both the standard different treatment analysis and the hostile environment analysis to determine whether title Vt has been violated.

If OCR determines that an agent or employee, acting within the scope of his or her employment, treated someone differently on the basis of race, color, or national origin without a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the treatment (i.e., direct different treatment), then OCR will conclude that Title Vt was violated. If OCR determines that a racially hostile environment exists at a recipient, the recipient had notice of it, and the recipient failed to take adequate action in response to the hostile environment, OCR will also find a violation. If OCR determines that a hostile environment was not established, or that a hostile environment was established but that the recipient either (1) did not have notice of it; or (2) had notice of it and took adequate action in response, OCR will find no violation.

Appendix Racial Incidents and Harassment Against Students - Compendium of Legal Resources

This compendium provides an outline summarizing key legal resources (including statutes, regulations, cases, and letters of findings) to serve as a reference for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) staff in investigating possible discrimination against students based on racial incidents including incidents involving allegations of harassment on the basis of race that occur at educational institutions. It is intended to be used in conjunction with the investigative guidance on racial incidents and harassment, and follows the same general outline as that guidance.

The investigation and analysis of cases under title Vt of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d, (title Vt) relies, to a large extent, on case law developed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,42 U.S.C. 2000e, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion in employment. See Dillon County District No. I and South Carolina State Department of Education, No. 84-VI-16 (Civil Rights Reviewing Auth.1987); United States v. LULAC, 793 F.2d 636, 648-49 (5th Cir. 1986); Georgia State Conference of Branches of NAACP v. Georgia, 775 F.2d 1403,1417 (11th Cir. 1985); and NAACP v. Medical Center, Inc. 657 F.2d 1322 (3d Cir.1981). See also, generally, EEOC Revised Enforcement Guidance on Recent Developments in Disparate Treatment Theory, No. N- 915.002 (July 14,1992).

1. Jurisdiction

OCR must first decide whether it has jurisdiction over a claim involving racial incidents or harassment. OCR has jurisdiction if the complaint alleges that the racially based conduct occurred in the context of an operation of an elementary, secondary, or postsecondary school or institution, or other entity that is a recipient of Federal funds.

A. Title Vt Prohibits Race Discrimination in Federally Funded Programs and Activities

Title Vt prohibits race discrimination in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance. See also 34 CFR part 100 (regulations effectuating provisions of title Vt).

B. OCR Has Institution-Wide Jurisdiction

Under the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, OCR generally has institution-wide jurisdiction over a recipient of Federal funds.

C. Allegation Must Relate to an Operation of Recipient

Discrimination must be alleged in an "operation" of a recipient. See 42 U.S.C. 2000d-4a.

D. Specific Discriminatory Actions Prohibited

The regulations implementing Title Vt include provisions prohibiting discrimination based on race in terms of:

  1. Services: Provision of services or other benefits. 34 CFR 100.3(b)(1)(iii).
  2. Privileges: Restriction of an individual's enjoyment of an advantage or privilege enjoyed by others.34 CFR 100.3(b)(1)(iv).
  3. Participation: Opportunities to participate. 34 CFR 100.3(b)(1)(vi).

The regulations also include a general, catchall provision prohibiting race discrimination. See 34 CFR 100.3(b)(5).

II. Standard Different Treatment by Agents or Employees

As with other claims of race discrimination under Title VI, OCR should first apply a standard different (disparate) treatment analysis to allegations involving racial incidents perpetrated by representatives of recipients. In doing so, OCR must determine whether a student was treated differently than other students on the basis of race without a legitimate, nondiscriminatory, non-pretextual reason.

The basic elements of a different treatment case were set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973) (focusing on indirect evidence of such treatment), a Title VII employment case. See also United States Postal Service Board of Governors v. Aikens, 460 U.S. 711 (1983); Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248 (1981).

A. Prima Facie Case

  1. Identify the racial group to which the complainant belongs for purposes of differential treatment analysis.
  2. Determine whether the complainant was treated differently than similarly situated members of other racial groups with regard to a service, benefit, privilege, etc., from the recipient. See, e.g., University of Pittsburgh, OCR Case No. 03-89-2035 (campus police treated black students more severely than white students); Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, OCR Case No. 04-893003 (similar).

B. Rebuttal of Prima Facie Case by Showing Legitimate, Nondiscriminatory Reason for Treatment

After a prima facie case of race discrimination has been established against the recipient, OCR must then determine whether the recipient had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its action(s) which would rebut the prima facie case against it.

C. Recipient s Rebuttal Overcome With Showing of Pretext

If the prima facie case of discrimination is rebutted, OCR must next determine whether the recipient's asserted reason for its action(s) is a mere pretext for discrimination. Ultimately however, the weight of the evidence must convince OCR that actual discrimination occurred. See St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 113 S.Ct. 2742 (1993) (under title VII disparate treatment analysis, ultimate burden of persuasion regarding intentional discrimination remains at all times with plaintiff) .

III. Hostile Environment Analysis

A violation of Title Vt may be found if racial harassment is severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to constitute a hostile or abusive educational environment. See Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986) (sets similar standard for sexual harassment under title IX) (relying on Rogers v. EEOC, 454 F.2d 234, 238 (5th Cir. 1971) (race discrimination can consist of an "environment heavily charged with ethnic or racial discrimination"), cert. denied,406 U.S. 957 (1972)); Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 114 S.Ct. 367 (1993) (reiterating Meritor standard). Accord, Hicks v. Gates Rubber Co., 833 F.2d 1406,1412 (10th Cir.1987); Snell v. Suffolk County, 782 F.2d 1094,1102 (2d Cir. 1986); Grayv. Greyhound Lines, East, 545 F.2d 169,176 (D.C. Cir. 1976) (noting with approval that EEOC has consistently held that title VII gives employee right to " 'a working environment free of racial intimidation' "). See also, e.g., Defiance College, OCR Case No. 05-9>2024 (violation where college was aware of "repeated" and "patently offensive" verbal and physical racial harassment committed by students).

Whether conduct constitutes a hostile environment must be determined from the totality of the circumstances. See Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 114 S.Ct. 367 (1993) (under title VII. factors to consider may include frequency and severity of discriminatory conduct, whether it is physically threatening or humiliating or merely offensive, and whether it interferes with work performance; psychological harm is not required but may be taken into account like any other relevant factor); Johnson v. Bunny Bread, 646 F.2d 1250,1257 (8th Cir.1981) (court examined nature, frequency, and content of racial harassment, as well as identities of perpetrators and victims). See also Snell, 782 F.2d at 1103 (citing Henson v. City of Dundee, 682 F.2d 897,904 (11th Cir. 1982)) (same standard for sexual harassment).

A. Harassment Must Be Severe, Pervasive or Persistent

1. Pervasive or Persistent

Where the harassment is not sufficiently severe, it must consist of more than casual or isolated racial incidents to create a racially hostile environment. Compare Trenton Junior College, OCR Case No. 07-87-6006 (title Vt violated where college failed to provide adequate security for black basketball players who were subjected to a break-in, cross-burning, and placement of raccoon skins at their campus residences) with University of California, Santa Cruz, OCR Case No. 09-91-6002 (no finding of racial harassment where OCR found only isolated individual incidents over three year period). See also, e.g., Snell, 782 F.2d at 1103 ("To establish a hostile atmosphere, * * * plaintiffs must prove more than a few isolated incidents of racial enmity * * *. Casual comments, or accidental or sporadic conversation will not trigger equitable relief"); Gates Rubber Co., 833 F.2d 1406; Powell v. Missouri State Highway and Transportation Department, 822 F.2d 798 (8th Cir.1986); Moylan v. Maries County, 792 F.2d 746 (8th Cir. 1986); Henson, 682 F.2d at 904 (quoting Rogers, 454 F.2d at 238).

OCR and Federal courts have found a hostile environment where there was a pattern or practice of harassment, or where the harassment was sustained and nontrivial. See, e.g., Wapato School District No. 207, OCR Case No. 10-821039 (Title Vt violated where teacher repeatedly treated minority students in racially derogatory manner). Compare Walker v. Ford Motor Co., 684 F.2d 1355 (11th Cir. 1982) (hostile environment where use of derogatory terms was "repeated, continuous, and prolonged") with Gilbert v. City of Little Rock, 722 F.2d 1390 (8th Cir. 1983) (hostile environment not created by isolated and allegedly unrelated racial slurs), cert. denied.466 U.S. 972 (1984).

2. Severe

The severity of individual incidents must also be considered. See, e.g., Vance v. Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Co., 863 F.2d 1503,1510-11 (11th Cir. 1989) (determination whether conduct is "severe and pervasive" does not turn solely on number of incidents; fact-finder must examine gravity as well as frequency) (decided under 42 U.S.C. 1981); Carrero v. New York City Housing Authority, 890 F.2d 569,578 (2d Cir. 1989) ("It is not how long the * * * obnoxious course of conduct lasts. The offensiveness of the individual actions * * is also a factor to be considered.").

Generally, the severity of the incidents needed to establish a racially hostile environment varies inversely with their pervasiveness or persistence. See EEOC Policy Guidance on Current Issues of Sexual Harassment, No. N915.050 (Mar. 19,1990) ("the more severe the harassment, the less need to show a repetitive series of incidents").

a. Special mission and duties of educational institutions. The unique setting and mission of an educational institution must be taken into account when OCR evaluates the severity of racial harassment under title Vt. School officials have a duty to provide a nondiscriminatory environment conducive to learning. See generally 34 CFR part 100 (regulations prohibiting any form of race discrimination which interferes with educational programs or activities under title Vt).

b. Characteristics and circumstances of victim especially race and age. OCR must take into account the characteristics and circumstances of the victim on a case-by-case basis particularly the victim's race and age when evaluating the severity of racial incidents at an educational institution. See Harris v. International Paper Co., 765 F. Supp.1509, 1515-16 (D. Me. 1991) (the appropriate standard to apply in a "hostile environment racial harassment case is that of a 'reasonable black person' "). See also, e.g., Ellison v. Brady, 924 F.2d 872 (5th Cir. 1991) (discussing differences in perspectives of men and women toward sexual harassment, and need to examine harassment from perspective of reasonable victim with characteristic upon which harassment was based).

The reasonable person standard as applied to children is "that of a reasonable person of like age, intelligence, and experience under like circumstances." Restatement (2d), Torts Section 283A (1965) (Comment b: "The special standard to be applied in the case of children arises out of the public interest in their welfare and protection * * * "). See also, e.g., Honeycutt v. City of Wichita, 247 Kan. 250,796 P.2d 549 (Kan. 1990) (adopting Restatement standard); Standard v. Shine, 278 S.C. 337, 295 S.E.2d 786 (S.C.1982) (same); Camerlinck v. Thomas, 209 Neb. 843, 312 N.W.2d 260 (Neb. 1981) (same).

c. Nature of incident. The nature of the incident(s) should also be considered. See, e.g., Vance v. Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Co., 863 F.2d at 1506-10 (hostile environment created where noose was hung twice at employee's workstation); Watts v. New York City Police Department, 724 F. Supp. 99,105 (S.D.N.Y.1989) (same, based on two sexual assaults).

A single incident that is sufficiently severe may establish a racially hostile environment. See EEOC Policy Guidance on Current Issues of Sexual Harassment, No. N-915.050 (Mar.19 1990) and cases cited therein, Barrett y. Omaha National Bank, 584 F. Supp. 22 (D. Neb.1983), aff'd, 726 F.2d 424 (8th Cir. 1984) (sexually hostile environment established by sexual assault).

d. Size of recipient and location of incidents. The size of the recipient and the location of the incidents also may be important.

e. Identity of individuals involved. The identity, number, and relationships of the individuals involved will also be considered on a case-by-case basis. See, e.g., Wapato School District No. 207, OCR Case No.10-82-1039 (racial harassment of students by teacher was particularly opprobrious).

f. Other incidents at the recipient. OCR will also consider other racial incidents at the institution. See, e.g. Midwest City-Del City Public Schools OCR Case No. 06-92-1012 (finding of racially hostile environment based in part on several racial incidents at school which occurred shortly before incidents in complaint).

g. Harassment need not be directed specifically at complainant or tangibly harm complainant or victim. The regulations implementing Title Vt provide that a complaint may be filed by i'[a)ny person who believes himself or any specific class of individuals to be subjected to discrimination prohibited by this part." 34 CFR 100.7(b). Thus, in hostile environment cases, the harassment need not be targeted specifically at the individual complainant. See Waltman v. International Paper Co., 875 F.2d 468, 477 (5th Cir. 1989) (all sexual graffiti in office, not just that directed at plaintiff, was relevant to plaintiff's claim); Hall v. Gus Construction Co., 842 F.2d 1010, 1015 (8th Cir. 1988) (evidence of sexual harassment directed at others is relevant to show hostile environment); Gates Rubber Co., 833 F.2d at 1415 ("one of the critical inquiries in a hostile environment claim must be the environment" as a whole) (emphasis in original); Walker v. Ford Motor Co., 684 F.2d 1355,1358-59 (11th Cir. 1982) hostile environment established where racial harassment made plaintiff" feel unwanted and uncomfortable in his surroundings," even though it was not directed at him).

The harassment need not be based on the ground of the complainant's or victim's race, so long as it is racially motivated. See, e.g., Center Grove Community School, OCR Case No.1591-1168 (title VI violated where white girl was forced to withdraw from all white school, as result of harassment by classmates which included note criticizing her association with black student at another school).

To establish a hostile environment harassment need not result in a tangible injury or detriment to the complainant or the victim of the harassment. Vinson 477 U.S. at 64. See also, e.g., Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 114 S.Ct. at 371 (under title VII several factors are considered including whether behaviors interfere with work performance psychological harm is not required but may be taken into account like any other relevant factor); Gilbert, 722 F.2d at 1394 (environment "which significantly and adversely affects the psychological well-being of an employee because of his or her race" is enough to constitute title VII violation); Bundy v. Jackson, 641 F.2d 934, 943-45 (D.C. Cir.1981) (protection against race and sex discrimination extends to "psychological and emotional work environment").

B. Notice

A recipient has a duty to provide a nondiscriminatory educational environment, but it must somehow receive notice of racial harassment in order to be found responsible for it. See Vinson, 477 U.S. at 72; see also Steele v. Offshore Shipbuilding, Inc., 867 F.2d 1311 (11th Cir. 1989); Lipsett v. University of Puerto Rico, 864 F.2d 881 (1st Cir.1988).

1. Actual Notice

A recipient may be found liable for racial harassment if it has actual knowledge of the racially offensive behavior or actions. See, e.g., Hunter v. Allis-Chalmers Corp., 797 F.2d 1417 (7th Cir. 1986) (liability exists if management-level employees were aware of barrage of offensive conduct) Katz v. Dole, 709 F.2d 251 (4th Cir. 1983) (actual knowledge where victim complains of harassment to appropriate authorities); Henson v. City of Dundee, 682 F.2d 897, 904 (11th Cir. 1982).

2. Constructive Notice

A recipient may be found liable where it reasonably should have known of the harassment e.g., because the harassment was so pervasive that its awareness may be inferred. See Paroline v. Unisys Corp., 879 F.2d 100 (4th Cir. 1989) (liability may be imputed where employer knew or should have known about prior conduct of harasser toward other women), vacated in part on other grounds, goo F.2d 27 (4th Cir. 1990): Yates v. Avco Corp., 819 F.2d 630 (6th Cir. 1987) (constructive notice where employee harassed women on a daily basis); Waltman, 875 F.2d 468 (possibility of constructive notice where sexual graffiti existed in numerous locations); Vance v. Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Co., 863 F.2d at 1510-11; Swentekv. USAir, Inc., 830 F.2d 552 (4th Cir. 1987).

If the alleged harasser is an agent or employee of a recipient, acting within the scope of his or her official duties (i.e., such that the individual has actual or apparent authority over the students involved), then the individual will be considered to be acting in an agency capacity and the recipient will be deemed to have constructive notice of the harassment. See, e.g., Kauffman v. Allied Signal, Inc., Autolite Division, 970 F.2d 178 (6th Cir.) ("scope of employment" standard for holding employers liable for supervisory harassment is based on traditional agency principles, such as when and where harassment took place, and whether it was foreseeable), cert. denied, 113 S.Ct. 831 (1992). See also EEOC Policy Guidance on Current Issues of Sexual Harassment, N-915.050 (Mar. 19, lgg0) (apparent authority exists where third parties reasonably believe that actions of supervisor represent exercise of authority possessed by virtue of employer's conduct).

In evaluating whether constructive notice should be imputed to a recipient, the availability, coverage and public dissemination of anti-discrimination policies and grievance procedures for students will be considered in determining whether the recipient has made a sufficient effort to become aware of racial incidents if and when they occur. See Meritor Savings Bank, 477 U.S. at 72-73 (existence of uninvoked grievance procedures and policies against discrimination is relevant to issue of employer liability for sexual harassment, but not dispositive].

C. Recipient's Response

1. Duty to Take Reasonable Steps to End Harassment

Once a recipient has notice of a racially hostile environment, it has a duty to take reasonable steps to eliminate it. If it fails to respond adequately to the hostile environment, then the recipient may be found to have violated title VI. See, e.g., California State University, Chico, OCR Case No. 09-89-2106 (inadequate response to racial harassment where university had no written grievance procedure and failed to interview most of the individuals involved); Township High School District No. 214, OCR Case No' 05-82-1097 (OCR found violation where school district failed to take adequate steps to correct repeated racial harassment by students, of which employees were aware). See also, e.g., Snell v. Suffolk County, 782 F.2d 1094 (2d Cir. 1986) (responsibility depends on gravity of harm, nature of work environment, and resources available); HaZl v. Gus Construction Co., Inc., 842 F.2d 1010 (8th Cir. 1988) (employer will be liable for failing to discover what is going on and to take remedial steps when actions are so numerous, egregious, and concentrated as to add up to campaign of harassment); Paroline. 879 F.2d 100 [4th Cir. 1989): Henson v. City of Dundee, 682 F.2d 897, 904 (11th Cir. 1982).

2. Response or Remedy Should Redress Actual Problems

The appropriate response or remedy for a hostile environment should be tailored to redress the specific problems experienced at the institution. See, e.g., Trenton Junior College, OCR Case No. 07-87-6006 (region developed remedial plan with college that included staff training on racial harassment, payment of compensation to harassed students and individuals who assisted the students in arranging for their safety, implementation of special efforts including financial aid to recruit black students, and development of plan for handling future harassment complaints).

3. Response Must Reasonably Attempt to Prevent Recurrence

The responsive action taken by a recipient must be reasonably calculated to prevent recurrence and ensure that individuals are not restricted in their participation or benefits as a result of a racially hostile environment created by students or non-employees. See, e.g., Brooms v. Regal Tube Co., 881 F.2d 412 (7th Cir. 1989) (response must be reasonably calculated to prevent further harassment under particular facts and circumstances of case at time allegations are made; courts should not focus solely on whether remedial activity ultimately succeeded, but should determine whether total response was reasonable); Waltman v. International Paper Co., 875 F.2d 468,476 (5th Cir.1989) (response must be reasonably calculated to halt harassment); Bundy v. Jackson, 641 F.2 934 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (employer liable where supervisor had full notice of harassment and did nothing to stop or investigate practice; employer must take all necessary steps to investigate and correct harassment including warnings, appropriate discipline, and other means of preventing harassment).

[FR Doc. 94-5531 Filed 3-9-94; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P


 
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