U.S. Department of Education Builds on Efforts to Improve Services for Students, Increase Effectiveness and Fairness of Office for Civil Rights Investigations

WASHINGTON — As part of its ongoing work to protect students’ civil rights and effectively, efficiently and fairly investigate civil rights complaints, today the U.S. Department of Education announced additional improvements to the Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) Case Processing Manual (CPM).

“Our top priority in the Office for Civil Rights is ensuring all students have equal access to education free from discrimination,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth L. Marcus. “Since joining the OCR team in June, I’ve reviewed our Case Processing Manual and received important and constructive feedback on it.  While we continue to work to improve the timeliness of OCR’s case processing, we have determined that additional revisions will help improve our work and allow us to be more responsive to students, stakeholders and our staff.”

The CPM provides guidelines for field investigators working to investigate and resolve complaints and to ensure schools comply with the laws and regulations enforced by OCR. The CPM underwent its last revision in March of 2018.

Full story at ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance On Civil Rights of Students with ADHD

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued guidance clarifying the obligation of schools to provide students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with equal educational opportunity under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

“On this 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am pleased to honor Congress’ promise with guidance clarifying the rights of students with ADHD in our nation’s schools,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “The Department will continue to work with the education community to ensure that students with ADHD, and all students, are provided with equal access to education.”

Over the last five years, OCR has received more than 16,000 complaints that allege discrimination on the basis of disability in elementary and secondary education programs, and more than 10 percent involve allegations of discrimination against students with ADHD. The most common complaint concerns academic and behavioral difficulties students with ADHD experience at school when they are not timely and properly evaluated for a disability, or when they do not receive necessary special education or related aids and services.

Full story of guidance on civil rights of students with ADHD at ed.gov

Settlements Reached in Seven States, One Territory to Ensure Website Accessibility for People with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today announced that it has reached settlements with education organizations in seven states and one territory to ensure website accessibility for people with disabilities.

OCR had received complaints involving each of the organizations, resulting in investigations. But before OCR had completed its probes, each of the 11 parties expressed interest in resolving their cases voluntarily, resulting in the agreements announced today. The settlements involved: Juneau, Alaska, School District; the Guam Department of Education; Montana School for the Deaf and Blind; Santa Fe, New Mexico, Public Schools; Washoe County, Nevada, School District; The Davidson Academy of Nevada; Nevada Department of Education; Oregon Department of Education; Granite, Utah, School District; Bellingham, Washington, School District; and the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“As schools, school districts, states, and territories turn to the internet as a way to provide relevant and up-to-date information to their audiences in a cost-effective manner, they must make sure they are not inadvertently excluding people with disabilities from their online programs, services, and activities,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “I applaud each of these signatories who have committed to ensuring that their websites are accessible to people with disabilities.”

Full story of settlements to ensure Website accessibility for disabled at ed.gov

Education Department Releases Guidance on Gender Equity in Career and Technical Education

As part of the Administration’s United State of Women Summit, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Adult, Career, and Technical Education released a Dear Colleague Letter today to make clear that all students, regardless of their sex, must have equal access to the full range of career and technical (CTE) programs offered.

“As the father of two daughters, I want my girls – and all young women in this country – to have access to the careers of their dreams, no matter the path,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “Career and technical education is not just about preparing some students for successful lives and careers, it’s about giving all students the tools to succeed.”

Ensuring that all students have access to high-quality secondary and postsecondary CTE programs is central to achieving equity required in law. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act requires states to meet negotiated targets for participation and completion rates of males and females in programs that are nontraditional for their sex. Despite efforts to increase enrollment of male and female students in fields that are non-traditional for their sex, disparities persist in certain fields.

Full story of ED on gender equity in career and education at ed.gov

Michigan State University Agrees to Change Its Response to Complaints of Sexual Harassment, Sexual Violence

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has resolved its investigation of two sexual violence complaints filed against Michigan State University. The university, which has taken important positive steps to provide and maintain a safe learning environment for everyone on campus, entered into a resolution agreement to correct violations found during OCR’s investigation.

“With this agreement, Michigan State University undertakes a strong and comprehensive commitment to address sexual harassment and sexual violence, which will benefit more than 50,000 students and employees,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “I am also grateful for the university’s good work during the course of our investigation in taking steps to provide a safe learning environment for its students and employees.”

Full story of Michigan State and complaints of sexual harassment at ed.gov

U.S. Education Department Announces Resolution of Civil Rights Investigation of Yakima School District (WA) Efforts to Address Harassment of Students

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into a resolution agreement to resolve a compliance review of the Yakima School District, Washington. The review examined whether the District has taken appropriate action to address harassment of students on the bases of sex, race, color, national origin, and disability. Yakima School District is the 18th largest school district in Washington State with 23 schools and approximately 16,000 students. It is also the largest Latino majority district in Washington State.

After identifying relatively high rates of bullying in the district, OCR’s investigation found the district violated federal civil rights laws by failing to provide nondiscrimination notices or procedures for prompt and equitable resolution of student or employee complaints. In addition, OCR’s investigation revealed flawed district recordkeeping that prevented the district, or OCR, from determining whether a hostile environment exists for students and if so whether the district takes appropriate steps for solution.

Full story of the investigation into the Yakima School District, visit ed.gov

U.S. Education Department Reaches Agreement with Youngstown State University to Ensure Equal Access to its Websites for Individuals with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights has entered into an agreement with Youngstown State University in Ohio to ensure that the school’s websites comply with federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability.

The agreement ends an OCR investigation and commits the 13,000-student public institution in northeast Ohio to providing equal access to educational opportunities for students with disabilities and to ensuring that the school’s websites are accessible to persons with disabilities, including students, prospective students, employees and visitors.

“I applaud Youngstown State University for agreeing to make its websites – through which it increasingly provides information to employees, applicants, students and others – fully accessible to all, including to individuals with disabilities,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “Web inaccessibility could significantly deter applications and participation from students with disabilities; this resolution ensures that Youngstown State can fully serve its entire student population, consistent with the law.”

Full story of Youngstown State’s website access for the disabled at ed.gov

Southern Methodist University Found in Violation of Title IX, Commits to Remedy Harassment, Sexual Assault of Students

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas after finding SMU in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for its response to gender-based and sexual harassment, including sexual assault. The agreement requires the university to take specific steps to come into compliance with Title IX.  SMU is a private, four-year university with approximately 11,000 students.

“I appreciate Southern Methodist University’s strong commitment in this agreement to provide a safe and supportive educational environment for its students,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “I look forward to working with Southern Methodist University in its implementation of the agreement.”

Following its investigation, OCR determined that SMU violated Title IX by failing to promptly and equitably respond to student complaints of gender-based harassment and sexual violence, including sexual assault, and to reports of retaliatory harassment.

Full story of University and sexual harassment at ed.gov

Guidance Issued on Responsibilities of Schools to Address Sexual Violence, Other Forms of Sex Discrimination

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today released new guidance describing the responsibilities of colleges, universities and public schools to address sexual violence and other forms of sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

The guidelines, highlighted by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault’s new report released earlier Tuesday, provide greater clarity about the requirements of Title IX around this critical issue – as requested by institutions and students.

Full story of schools addressing sexual violence at ed.gov

Expansive Survey of America’s Public Schools Reveals Troubling Racial Disparities

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released today the first comprehensive look at civil rights data from every public school in the country in nearly 15 years.

The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) from the 2011-12 school year was announced by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

This is the first time since 2000 that the Department has compiled data from all 97,000 of the nation’s public schools and its 16,500 school districts—representing 49 million students. And for the first time ever, state-, district- and school-level information is accessible to the public in a searchable online database at crdc.ed.gov.

Full story of school racial disparities at ed.gov