About ED ED PERFORMANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY
Annual Report to Congress
Of the Office for Civil Rights
Fiscal Year 2006

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II. COMPLAINT INVESTIGATIONS AND RESOLUTIONS

One of the most important ways OCR carries out its responsibilities is by investigating and resolving complaints.  People who believe there has been a violation of the civil rights laws enforced by OCR may file a complaint with the appropriate enforcement office. 

In resolving complaints, OCR’s primary objectives are to promptly investigate the allegations of discrimination, and to accurately determine whether the civil rights laws have been violated, and to remedy the violation.   In FY 2006, OCR received 5,805 complaints and resolved 5,893, some of which had been filed in previous years.  (See Table 1. Also, Appendix B shows FY 2006 complaint receipts by OCR enforcement offices).

Timeliness is critical to students and parents in the resolution of civil rights issues. OCR has set goals for timeliness, which serve as a useful measure of the efficiency and effectiveness of its complaint resolution process. OCR’s goal is to have at least 80 percent of new complaints resolved within 180 days of being filed. In FY 2006, 91 percent of new complaints were resolved in 180 days, significantly exceeding the target of 80 percent.

OCR continues to meet or exceed its customers’ expectations of resolving complaints in a timely and thorough manner as well as its Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) performance indicator, as demonstrated in the chart below.

In FY 2006, the performance target was modified to measure whether at least 80 percent of complaints with due dates in the relevant fiscal year were resolved within the 180 day timeframe. The charts below illustrate performance results for FY 2006 using the new standard as well as prior fiscal year results using the former standard.

Current performance measures for complaint workload:
Fiscal Year Number of Complaints With Resolution Due Dates in FY2006* Number of Complaints Resolved Within 180 Days of Receipt Percentage of Complaints Within 180 Days
2006
5,692
5,201
91%

*Complaints received April 1, 2005 through March 31, 2006 have resolution due dates in FY 2006.

Historical performance measure for complaint workload:
Fiscal Year Number of Complaints Resolved Number of Complaints Resolved Within 180 Percentage of Complaints Within 180 Days
2002
4,842
4,301
89%
2003
5,225
4,737
91%
2004
4,968
4,539
92%
2005
5,365
4,924
92%

In addition, after identifying an increase in the percentage of pending cases, OCR added a new target to ensure that no more than 25 percent of pending cases would be over 180 days old. In FY 2006, only 21 percent of pending cases were over 180 days old, exceeding the 25 percent GPRA target.

Fiscal Year
Number of Pending Complaints
Number of Pending Complaints Over 180 Days Percentage of Pending Complaints Over 180 Days
2006
1,458
308
21%

OCR’s Case Resolution and Investigation Manual (CRIM) (updated May 2005) provides procedures for promptly and effectively investigating and resolving complaints. The CRIM explains how OCR will process all phases of complaint resolution, including evaluation, investigation, resolution, monitoring, and enforcement. The CRIM is posted on OCR’s Web site and is available to the public at http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/ocrcrm.html.

During FY 2006, OCR continued using an investigative approach that stresses full investigation of complaints prior to making a determination of compliance. In some cases, OCR will also use the Early Complaint Resolution (ECR) process to resolve cases. The ECR process facilitates the resolution of complaints by providing an opportunity for the parties involved to voluntarily resolve the allegations that prompted the complaint. If OCR determines that ECR is appropriate and the complainant and the recipient are willing to proceed, OCR will initiate ECR to facilitate an agreement between the recipient and the complainant. ECR may take place at any time during the investigative process. OCR does not sign, approve, or endorse any agreement reached between the parties. However, OCR assists both parties in understanding pertinent legal standards and possible remedies. OCR will not monitor the agreement but will inform the parties that if a breach occurs, the complainant has the right to file another complaint. OCR monitors the process of ECR carefully to ensure adequate time for completion of the investigation in the event that ECR is unsuccessful. The investigation must be completed in accordance with normal case processing standards and timelines. In FY 2006, OCR resolved 218 complaints using the ECR process.

If, after a full investigation, OCR determines that there is evidence of a violation, OCR will attempt to negotiate a resolution agreement with the recipient to correct the violation. Pursuant to both statute and regulation, OCR is obligated to resolve civil rights violations by voluntary and informal means, if possible. If negotiation and resolution methods fail, OCR issues a violation letter of findings and again attempts to negotiate a settlement agreement to correct the violations. It is only after OCR has advised recipients of their failure to comply with the civil rights laws and has determined compliance cannot be secured by voluntary means that, as a last resort, OCR seeks compliance through the administrative hearing process or refers cases to the U.S. Department of Justice for judicial enforcement.

If the complainant disagrees with a decision not to proceed with a complaint or a determination that the investigation did not establish a violation of law, OCR has procedures whereby the complainant may ask OCR to reconsider the decision. A complainant may not request reconsideration when OCR has investigated, found a compliance concern, and entered into an agreement with a recipient. Reconsiderations focus on factual or legal concerns that could change the disposition of the case.


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Last Modified: 11/01/2007