U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

To print: Click here or Select File and then Print from your browser's menu

Office for Civil Rights

Notice about Investigatory Uses of Personal Information

To investigate your complaint, OCR may need to collect and analyze personal information such as student records or employment records. No law requires you to give personal information to OCR and no sanctions will be imposed on complainants or other persons who do not cooperate in providing information during the complaint resolution process. However, if OCR is unable to obtain information needed to investigate your complaint, we may have to close your complaint.

The Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, govern personal information submitted to all Federal agencies, including OCR.

The Privacy Act of 1974 protects individuals from the misuse of personal information held by the Federal government. It applies to records that are kept and can be located by the individual's name, social security number, or other personal identifier. It regulates the collection, maintenance, use and dissemination of certain personal information in the files of Federal agencies.

The information OCR collects is analyzed by authorized personnel within the agency and will be used by the government only for authorized civil rights compliance and enforcement activities. However, in order to resolve a complaint OCR may need to reveal certain information to persons outside the agency to verify facts or gather additional information. Such details could include the name, age, or physical condition of the person who is the alleged subject of discrimination. Also, OCR may be required to reveal information requested under FOIA (discussed below). OCR will not release information about a complainant to any other agency or individual except in the one of the 11 instances defined in the Department's regulation at 34 C.F.R. § 5b.9(b).

OCR does not reveal the name or other identifying information about an individual (including individuals who file complaints or speak to OCR) unless (1) such information would assist OCR in the completion of an investigation or in enforcement activities against an institution that violates the laws; (2) such information is required to be disclosed under the FOIA or the Privacy Act or otherwise by law; or (3) such information is permitted to be disclosed under both the FOIA and the Privacy Act and OCR determines disclosure would further an interest of the Department and the United States.

However, OCR can release certain information about your complaint to the press or general public, including the name of the school or institution; the date your complaint was filed; the type of discrimination included in your complaint; the date your complaint was resolved, dismissed or closed; the basic reasons for OCR’s decision; or other related information. Any information OCR releases to the press or general public will not include your name or the name of the person on whose behalf you filed the complaint except as noted in the paragraph above.

FOIA gives the public the right of access to records and files of Federal agencies. Individuals may obtain items from many categories of records of the Federal government, not just materials that apply to them personally. OCR must honor requests under FOIA with some exceptions. Generally, OCR is not required to release documents during the case evaluation and investigation process or enforcement proceedings if the release could reasonably be expected to interfere with the ability of OCR to do its job. Also, a Federal agency may refuse a request for records compiled for law enforcement purposes if their release could reasonably be expected to result in an unwarranted invasion of privacy of an individual. Also, a request for other records, such as medical records, may be denied where disclosure would be a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy.

Updated April 2014

Close Window and Return to Complaint Form