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Age Discrimination in Education

The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination based on age in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. The U.S. Department of Education gives financial assistance to schools and colleges, so most schools and colleges are subject to the Age Discrimination in Education Act when it comes to allegations of age discrimination. The Age Discrimination regulation is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Claims Under the Age Discrimination Act of 1975

Anyone who may have a claim under the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 must file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), to allow the OCR to properly investigate any allegations of discrimination. For those wishing to file a private lawsuit, regulations under the Age Discrimination Act allow you to file a claim in federal court only after:

  1. (1) 180 days have passed since you file a complaint with OCR and OCR has made no finding, or
  2. (2) OCR issues a finding in favor of the recipient. In this case, OCR will promptly notify you and remind you of your right to file in court.

Questions and Answers on Age Discrimination in Education

Q: Does the Age Discrimination Act apply only to older people?

A: The Act does not limit protection against discrimination to a certain age group.

Q: Does the Act apply to age distinctions that are included in federal, state and local laws, such as a minimum age to enroll in a public school?

A: No, the Act does not apply to statutes and ordinances passed by elected bodies that establish age criteria for participation in certain programs.

Q: Does the Act have any other exceptions?

A: There are a variety of exceptions to the rule that permit age to be taken into account. For example, the act permits schools and colleges to offer special programs that are geared toward providing special benefits to children and the elderly in a specific age range.

Q: Does the Act allow schools to set age limits for programs like drivers education?

A: Yes. The Act contains a number of exceptions that take into account whether consideration of age is necessary to operate the program. A district may limit participation in a driver's education course to those students who are a certain age if this age criterion is necessary to the program.

Q: What if a school or college uses factors other than age as criteria for admission to a program (such as requiring applicants to have graduated from their previous school within 2 years), but it has the effect of excluding older people who may have graduated many years ago?

A: The Act may prohibit this if the requirement being questioned is not needed for the normal operation of the program being offered.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified civil rights attorney
to help you protect your rights.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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