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How to File an Education Discrimination Complaint with the Government

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces several federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education (ED):

  • Discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin is prohibited by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
  • Sex discrimination is prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972;
  • Discrimination on the basis of disability is prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities, whether or not they receive federal financial assistance); and
  • Age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination Act of 1975.

These civil rights laws extend to all state education agencies, elementary and secondary school systems, colleges and universities, vocational schools, proprietary schools, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, libraries, and museums that receive federal financial assistance from ED. Programs or activities that receive ED funds must provide aids, benefits, or services in a nondiscriminatory manner. Such aids, benefits, or services may include, but are not limited to: admissions, recruitment, financial aid, academic programs, student treatment and services, counseling and guidance, discipline, classroom assignment, grading, vocational education, recreation, physical education, athletics, housing, and employment.

In addition, as of January 8, 2002, OCR enforces the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Under the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, no public elementary school, public secondary school, or state or local education agency that provides an opportunity for one or more outside youth or community groups to meet on school premises or in school facilities before or after school hours shall deny equal access or a fair opportunity to meet or discriminate against, any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America or any other youth group listed in Title 36 of the United States Code as a patriotic society.

WHAT TO DO

Anyone wishing to file a formal complaint with OCR should submit in writing the following information in a letter or on the Discrimination Complaint Form available from OCR enforcement offices (see listing of offices below):

  • Your name and address (a telephone number where you may be reached during business hours is helpful, but not required);
  • A general description of the person(s) or class of persons injured by the alleged discriminatory act(s) (names of the injured person(s) are not required);
  • The name and location of the institution that committed the alleged discriminatory act(s); and
  • A description of the alleged discriminatory act(s) in sufficient detail to enable OCR to understand what occurred, when it occurred, and the basis for the alleged discrimination (race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act).

HOW TO FILE AN ONLINE COMPLAINT

OCR encourages students and parents, representatives of education institutions, and other OCR customers to use e-mail or fax to communicate with OCR, whenever possible. Also, complainants may file a complaint with OCR, online, at the following website: http://www.ed.gov/ocr/complaintprocess.html.

For those without current e-mail accounts, Internet access may be freely available from your local public library, and free e-mail accounts are available from several large providers.

A recipient may not retaliate against any person who has made a complaint, testified, assisted or participated in any manner in an investigation or proceeding under the laws listed above.

WHO CAN FILE

Anyone who believes that an educational institution that receives Federal financial assistance has discriminated against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age, or who believes that a public elementary or secondary school, or State or local education agency has violated the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, may file a complaint. The person or organization filing the complaint need not be a victim of the alleged discrimination, but may complain on behalf of another person or group.

TIMELINESS

A complaint must be filed within 180 calendar days of the date of the alleged discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended by OCR for good cause.

INSTITUTIONAL GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES

Prior to filing a complaint with OCR against an institution, a potential complainant may want to find out about the institution's grievance process and use that process to have the complaint resolved. A complainant is not required by law to use the institutional grievance procedure before filing a complaint with OCR. If a complainant uses an institutional grievance process and also chooses to file the complaint with OCR, the complaint must be filed with OCR within 60 days after the last act of the institutional grievance process.

WHERE TO WRITE

Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202-1100
1-800-421-3481
FAX: (202) 245-6840; TDD: (877) 521-2172
E-mail: OCR@ed.gov
Web: www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html

EASTERN DIVISION

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts,
New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
Office for Civil Rights, Boston Office
U.S. Department of Education
33 Arch Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02110-1491
(617) 289-0111; FAX# (617) 289-0150

New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico,
Virgin Islands
Office for Civil Rights, New York Office
U.S. Department of Education
32 Old Slip, 26th Floor
New York, NY 10005-2500
(646) 428-3900; FAX# (646) 428-3843

Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky,
Pennsylvania, West Virginia
Office for Civil Rights, Philadelphia Office
U.S. Department of Education
Wanamaker Building
100 Penn Square East, Suite 515
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3323
(215) 656-8541; FAX# (215) 656-8605

SOUTHERN DIVISION

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee
Office for Civil Rights, Atlanta Office
U.S. Department of Education
61 Forsyth Street, S.W., Suite 19T70
Atlanta, GA 30303-3104
(404) 562-6350; FAX# (404) 562-6455

Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas
Office for Civil Rights, Dallas Office
U.S. Department of Education
1999 Bryan Street, Suite 1620
Dallas, TX 75201-6810
(214) 661-9600; FAX# (214) 661-9587

North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C.,
South Carolina
Office for Civil Rights, DC Office
U.S. Department of Education
P.O. Box 14620
Washington, D.C. 20044-4620
(202) 208-2545; FAX# (202) 208-7797

MIDWESTERN DIVISION

Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin,
Iowa, North Dakota
Office for Civil Rights, Chicago Office
U.S. Department of Education
111 North Canal Street, Suite 1053
Chicago, IL 60606-7204
(312) 886-8434; FAX# (312) 353-4888

Michigan, Ohio
Office for Civil Rights, Cleveland Office
U.S. Department of Education
600 Superior Avenue East, Suite 750
Cleveland, OH 44114-2611
(216) 522-4970; FAX# (216) 522-2573

Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota,
Oklahoma
Office for Civil Rights, Kansas City Office
U.S. Department of Education
8930 Ward Parkway
Suite 2037
Kansas City, MO 64114
(816) 268-0550; FAX# (816) 823-1404

WESTERN DIVISION

Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico,
Utah, Wyoming
Office for Civil Rights, Denver Office
U.S. Department of Education
Federal Building, Suite 310
1244 Speer Boulevard
Denver, CO 80204-3582
(303) 844-5695; FAX# (303) 844-4303

California
Office for Civil Rights, San Francisco Office
U.S. Department of Education
Old Federal Building
50 United Nations Plaza, Room 239
San Francisco, CA 94102-4912
(415) 556-4275; FAX# (415) 437-7783

Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon,
Montana, Washington, American Samoa,
Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands
Office for Civil Rights, Seattle Office
U.S. Department of Education
915 Second Avenue, Room 3310
Seattle, WA 98174-1099
(206) 220-7900; FAX# (206) 220-7887

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

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