Department at a Glance | Our Mission
Federal Civil Rights Laws Protect Equal Access
The Department is responsible for enforcing a series of laws to ensure civil rights in the following ways:
- To prohibit discrimination based on race, color, and national origin-Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (See "Race/national origin" wedge of graph.)
- To prohibit sex discrimination in education programs-Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. (See "Sex" wedge of graph.)
- To prohibit discrimination based on age-Age Discrimination Act of 1975. (See "Age" wedge of graph.)
- To prohibit discrimination based on disability-Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. (Included in "Disability" wedge of graph.)
- To prohibit discrimination based on disability by public entities, whether or not they receive federal financial assistance-Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. (Included in "Disability" wedge of graph.)
In addition, we enforce the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, enacted in 2002. This law addresses equal access for the Boy Scouts of America and other designated youth groups to meet in public schools receiving funds from the Department.
These antidiscrimination laws protect more than 54 million students attending elementary and secondary schools and more than 16 million students attending colleges and universities (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Projections of Education Statistics to 2013 (NCES 2004-013), Washington, DC: 2003, Tables 1 and 10).
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), a law enforcement agency within the Department, executes the Department's civil rights enforcement responsibilities through a variety of activities. The Department conducts complaint investigations with the dual objectives of promptly investigating complainants' allegations of discrimination and accurately determining whether the civil rights laws and regulations have been violated. In FY 2005, the Department received 5,531 complaints alleging discrimination and resolved 5,360. As reflected in the chart, the majority of complaints received by the Department allege discrimination on the basis of disability.
In addition to complaint investigations, the Department initiates compliance reviews and other proactive initiatives to focus on specific civil rights compliance problems in education that are particularly acute or national in scope. Seventy-three compliance reviews were initiated in FY 2005 on issues including access for students with physical disabilities to postsecondary schools and the overrepresentation of minority and national origin limited English proficient students in special education. The Department also conducted compliance reviews of universities and school districts to ensure that Title IX coordinators were designated and trained and that the Title IX nondiscrimination policy and other information were published in accordance with regulations.
The Department also pursues compliance by federal funds recipients by promulgating regulations implementing the civil rights laws, developing clear policy guidance interpreting those laws, and broadly disseminating this information to educational institutions, parents, students, and others. This information is conveyed using a variety of media and by the direct provision of technical assistance. To assist the public, the Department provides civil rights information, including policy documents and technical assistance publications; tools that recipients can use to assess their own compliance with the civil rights laws; and information to help students and parents understand their rights. The Department provides an online complaint form through which it now receives over 50 percent of its discrimination complaints.