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Office for Civil Rights
Annual Report to Congress FY 2004

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OTHER EFFORTS TO ENFORCE THE CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS

Regulations and Policy Guidance

OCR also pursues compliance by federal fund recipients by promulgating regulations implementing the civil rights laws, by developing clear policy guidance interpreting those laws, and by broadly disseminating this information to educational institutions, parents, students, and others. Effective civil rights enforcement in education requires that educational institutions understand the legal and regulatory requirements and that students, parents, and other members of the public understand their rights. To meet these goals, OCR issues guidance in many different media, including through the Internet, and updates and augments that guidance regularly to ensure that OCR guidance reflects current developments in civil rights law and educational practice.

Race-Neutral Alternatives

In the 2003 University of Michigan decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court held that diversity may be a compelling interest and institutions must undertake “serious good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives” before using racial preferences to achieve student body diversity. In FY 2003, OCR began an initiative to provide technical assistance and public education regarding race-neutral approaches to achieving student body diversity.

OCR's continuation of this initiative seeks to foster innovative thinking about using race-neutral means to produce diversity in educational institutions and to help create a positive climate in which such race-neutral alternatives can be considered. OCR released a report entitled “Achieving Diversity: Race-Neutral Alternatives in American Education” on March 26, 2004. The report, a revised and expanded version of OCR's 2003 report, “Race-Neutral Alternatives in Postsecondary Education: Innovative Approaches to Diversity,” catalogs many of the race-neutral approaches that K-12 schools, public and private colleges, and graduate and professional schools are implementing across the country.

For example, the report describes partnerships between colleges and public schools that facilitate mentoring; state partnerships with the College Board to improve educational achievement among students attending low-performing schools; use of socioeconomic criteria for student assignment and university admissions; partnerships between community colleges and traditional research institutions that encourage students to transfer into research institutions; and class-rank plans guaranteeing university admission to high school seniors who graduate within a specified percentage of their class.

Title IX Administrative Requirements

In April 2004, OCR issued a Dear Colleague Letter to the chief state school officers and state and local education agencies to remind them of certain requirements of the Title IX regulations. The regulations require recipients to designate a Title IX coordinator, adopt and disseminate a nondiscrimination policy, and implement grievance procedures to address complaints of discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs and activities. A similar letter was issued in August 2004 to postsecondary institutions.

Rights of All Students

OCR issued a Dear Colleague Letter in September 2004 to local education agencies and postsecondary institutions clarifying the rights of all students, including students of faith, to be free from race, national origin, and sex discrimination in cases where such discrimination may be commingled with religious discrimination. The letter makes clear that, although OCR does not have jurisdiction over religious discrimination, OCR will exercise its jurisdiction to enforce the Title VI prohibition against national origin discrimination, regardless of whether the groups targeted for discrimination also exhibit religious characteristics. Thus, for example, OCR aggressively investigates alleged race or ethnic harassment against Arab Muslim, Sikh and Jewish students.

In addition, the letter reminds educational institutions that they must formulate, interpret, and apply their rules in a manner that respects the legal rights of students and faculty, including those court precedents interpreting the concept of free speech.

Extracurricular Activities

OCR issued a joint Dear Colleague Letter with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice reminding the chief state school officers and school districts that extracurricular activities must be operated in a nondiscriminatory manner. The letter makes clear that such practices as allocating awards or honors on the basis of race (for example, racially separate homecoming queens and kings, most popular student) or assistance in facilitating racially separate proms are inconsistent with federal law and should not be tolerated. Further, the letter states that the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice will act promptly to remedy such violations where they occur, through litigation, if necessary.


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Last Modified: 11/01/2007