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U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights

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Presentation on theme: "U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights"— Presentation transcript:

1 U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights

2 OCR Presents: Navigating OCR: OCR’s Case Processing Procedures and Resolution Tools

3 What Is OCR? The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is a part of the U.S. Department of Education and has headquarters in Washington, D.C. and has 12 enforcement offices OCR's mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights

4 Laws Enforced by OCR Title VI: (race, national origin and color)
Title IX: (sex) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act: (disability) Age Discrimination Act: (age) Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act: (prohibits denial of equal access or a fair opportunity to meet to, or discrimination against, any group affiliated with the Boy Scouts or with other Title 36 youth groups)

5 OCR’s Jurisdiction OCR has jurisdiction over entities that receive Federal financial assistance from the Department of Education, such as: state education agencies elementary and secondary school systems colleges and universities state vocational rehabilitation agencies OCR also has jurisdiction over certain public entities under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, such as: public elementary and secondary school systems public colleges and universities public libraries and state vocational rehabilitation agencies Under Title VI, Title IX, Section 504, and the Age Discrimination Act, OCR has jurisdiction over entities that receive Federal financial assistance from the Department of Education. Title II prohibits disability discrimination by public entities whether or not they receive Federal financial assistance. Under the Boy Scouts Act, OCR has jurisdiction over public elementary and secondary schools, and State and local educational agencies, that receive funds made available through the Department of Education.

6 OCR Enforcement An important responsibility of OCR is the investigation and resolution of complaints of discrimination. OCR also initiates some cases on its own. These are called compliance reviews, and they permit OCR to target resources on compliance problems that appear particularly acute.

7 OCR Enforcement OCR also provides technical assistance to help institutions achieve voluntary compliance with the civil rights laws that OCR enforces and to help parents and students understand their rights and responsibilities. Technical assistance includes, for example: Presentations Responses to telephone and written inquiries Workshops Consultation

8 Complaint Resolution OCR's goal is to resolve complaints of discrimination promptly and appropriately. OCR may use a variety of approaches to resolve the complaint. 8

9 Investigation of Complaints of Discrimination: FAQs
How do I file a Complaint? Which Complaints will be Investigated by OCR? Will the Recipient Know I have filed a complaint with OCR? An Investigation: What Can I Expect? How Will the Complaint be Resolved?

10 How do I file a Complaint?
A complaint is a written statement to the Department alleging that the rights of one or more persons have been violated and requesting the Department to take action. The complaint should include a written explanation of what happened; a way to contact the complainant; identification of the person or group injured; and identification of the person or institution alleged to have discriminated. Complaints may be filed online as well as by mail, fax, or in person. Once OCR receives the complaint, it will notify the complainant and inform him/her that the complaint will be evaluated to determine whether OCR has authority to investigate the allegations. If not already provided by the complainant, a consent form will be included with OCR’s acknowledgement letter. The complainant will be informed that the complaint will be closed if written consent is not received within 20 calendar days of the date of the acknowledgement letter. If the complaint is filed by OCR must have the complainant’s actual name and address Some correspondence that OCR receives, even if it concerns an alleged civil rights violation, may not be a complaint. The following are not complaints:   (a)     Oral allegations that are not reduced to writing and signed; (b)     Anonymous correspondence; (c)     Courtesy copies of correspondence or a complaint filed with others; or (d)     Inquiries that seek advice or information but do not seek action or intervention from the Department.

11 Which Complaints will be Investigated by OCR?
OCR Case Processing Manual (2008): OCR will investigate all allegations, which, if true, would constitute a violation of one of the laws it enforces. In 2008, OCR changed its case processing procedures with its new Case Processing Manual. Previously, OCR would not open a case for investigation if the complainant could not provide a “sufficient factual basis” to suggest that discrimination occurred. Under the new Manual, OCR will proceed with the complaint investigation, provided that the allegation is timely and within OCR’s jurisdiction. This change has resulted in the investigation of more cases. The CPM was revised with the goal of ensuring due process/fairness for both parties and of providing greater flexibility in resolution. Under the previous procedures, cases were administratively closed for insufficient factual basis and the recipient may not have been aware that a complaint had been filed against it. Due process considerations require that recipients be given notice and an opportunity to respond to complaints. Similarly, notions of fundamental fairness counsel against requiring the complainant to provide information to which he/she may not have access– imposing too high a burden on complainants.

12 Which Complaints will be Investigated?
Opening the allegations for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to their merits. During the investigation, OCR is a neutral fact-finder, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence from the complainant, the recipient, and other sources, as appropriate. OCR will ensure that its investigation is legally sufficient and is dispositive of the allegations, in accordance with the provisions of Article III of the Case Processing Manual. This information is provided on our website's discussion of the Case Processing Manual. We will provide the website address at the end of the presentation.

13 Will the Recipient Know I Have Filed a Complaint with OCR ?
Notification Letter: OCR will send a notification letter to the recipient and to the complainant. The letter will state the following:   (a) the basis for the complaint; (b) a brief statement of the allegations over which OCR has jurisdiction; (c) a brief statement of OCR’s jurisdiction over the complaint; and (d) an indication of when the parties will be contacted. -- The notification letter does not identify the complainant. However, to investigate the complaint involving an individual student, OCR requires the consent of the complainant to release the identity of the student who is the subject of the complaint. Without consent, OCR cannot investigate the complaint.

14 How Will the Complaint Be Resolved?
Resolution Tools: Investigations and Investigative Determinations Early Complaint Resolution (ECR) Resolution Requested by Recipient Prior to the Conclusion of an Investigation

15 Investigations and Investigative Determinations
Resolution Tools: Investigations and Investigative Determinations

16 OCR Investigation OCR proceeds with investigation and makes compliance determination Violation No Violation

17 What to Expect in an OCR Investigation
Data Requests Interviews, where appropriate On-site Visit, where appropriate OCR will submit a data request letter to the recipient, and possibly conduct an on-site. Where appropriate, OCR may identify individuals, including teachers, administrators, other students to interview regarding the allegation(s). OCR may ask the complainant to supply documentation he/she has to support the allegation(s).

18 Investigative Determinations
At the conclusion of the investigation, OCR will determine either: the evidence is insufficient to support the complaint allegations; or the evidence is sufficient to support a determination of noncompliance. OCR will then attempt to negotiate a voluntary resolution agreement with the recipient. If an agreement is not reached, OCR will proceed to enforcement, either through an administrative proceeding or through referral to the Department of Justice for judicial proceedings. OCR will issue a letter to both parties describing the allegations, the information obtained during investigation, the applicable statutory and regulatory provisions, and OCR’s conclusion. Complainants have a right to appeal an OCR determination that insufficient evidence exists to support a complaint allegation. Even if OCR concludes that insufficient evidence exists to support the complaint allegation, the Complainant may have a private right of action in court. In Age Act cases and Title II cases, OCR specifically informs complainants of their right to file suit.

19 Early Complaint Resolution (ECR)
Resolution Tools: Early Complaint Resolution (ECR)

20 Early Complaint Resolution (ECR) What Is It?
ECR is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that OCR offers free of charge where appropriate as an alternative to the traditional investigative process ECR provides the parties an early opportunity to voluntarily resolve the issues that prompted the OCR complaint without investigation While referred to as Early Complaint Resolution, ECR can occur at any point during the investigation. Also, if ECR is not successful at one time during the life of a complaint, nothing prohibits the parties from requesting ECR at a later point.

21 ECR Process OCR determines that ECR is appropriate
Complainant and Recipient express willingness to engage in ECR OCR facilitator is designated Complainant and Recipient sign agreement to participate and confidentiality agreement Facilitator contacts parties and may arrange for a joint conference between parties Once parties agree on resolution, facilitator assists parties in drafting agreement

22 OCR’s Role To serve as facilitator.
To review the allegations and make sure the parties understand the issues, and, as appropriate, facilitate an understanding of pertinent legal standards and possible remedies To establish a constructive tone and encourage the parties to work in good faith toward a mutually acceptable resolution To facilitate a discussion between the parties regarding possible actions that the parties may consider in working toward a resolution To maintain an impartial approach and inform the parties that OCR will not insist on particular terms or any specific resolution To assist the parties in drafting any resolution agreement.

23 Role of the Participants
Individuals participating in the ECR sessions should have full decision-making authority Parties are to participate in the discussions in good faith Participants are to consider offers or suggestions with an open mind and to work constructively toward a mutually acceptable resolution Implement any agreement in good faith

24 If ECR is Successful . . . OCR will notify the parties that the allegation has been resolved OCR will close the complaint OCR does not monitor the agreement If a breach occurs, the complainant may re-file the complaint

25 Benefits of ECR Educational Early and Efficient Economical Equitable
Educational – ECR agreements allow parties to get back to the business of education, without the anxiety of an unresolved civil rights complaint. ECR fosters a problem-solving approach to complaints. Complaints received by OCR may be the result of broken relationships between the complainants and recipients. ECR improves communication. ECR provides a neutral and confidential setting in which the parties can openly discuss their views on the underlying dispute and its solution. Enhanced communication can lead to mutually satisfactory resolutions and let the parties move on from the dispute. Early and Efficient – The ECR process is quick, usually completed in 20 to 30 days. This is especially important at the start of a new school year or semester. For example, in the context of disability, FAPE and accommodations cases can be resolved to make a difference to the student in timely manner (e.g., personal FM system provided within a week so that the student can take midterms) Economical –ECR saves time and money. First and foremost, mediation is free. It does not cost anything to participate in ECR. All that is required is good faith on the part of both parties and a willingness to see the big picture. Moreover, ECR generally occurs early in the process, prior to spending substantial time, resources and money responding to an OCR investigation. Many mediations can be completed in one meeting. Legal or other representation is optional but not required. Recipients can avoid enforcement actions (a possibility if a violation is found in an OCR investigation) and oversight by a government agency for a potentially lengthy duration. Equitable – The ECR process is the only point in the OCR complaint process that allows both parties to control the outcome. It’s a win-win situation. In addition, ECR can resolve all issues important to both parties, not just the underlying legal dispute.

26 If ECR fails . . . OCR resumes its investigation
Complaint returned to investigative team Any notes taken by the facilitator and/or any records or other documents offered by either party to the facilitator during ECR will be kept in a separate file and will not be shared with the staff member assigned to investigate the complaint.

27 Successful ECRs: Disability (Section 504 and Title II)
Allegation concerns failure to provide services in a student's Section 504 plan; ECR results in school district's agreement to provide the services and/or clarification of Section 504 requirements Allegation concerns failure to provide academic adjustments and auxiliary aids; ECR results in University’s agreement to provide these or to meet with student to evaluate request for academic adjustments/auxiliary aids

28 Successful ECRs: Sex Discrimination (Title IX)
Complaint filed by female athletes alleging that college failed to effectively accommodate their athletic interests and abilities; ECR results in reinstatement of swimming team Complaint alleged that the school district failed to designate a Title IX coordinator; in ECR, district agrees to designate employee to be its Title IX coordinator and to revise and publish its notice of nondiscrimination, including contact information for coordinator

29 Successful ECRs: Racial Discrimination (Title VI)
Complaint alleges that student was subjected to racial harassment by other students; ECR agreement provides that school district will promptly investigate allegations of harassment and take appropriate responsive action, including possible discipline of the students involved Allegation of different treatment in benefits provided by school district (e.g., access to Advanced Placement courses; afterschool programs); in ECR, school district agrees to take steps to ensure that benefits are available to all students

30 Resolution Tools: Resolution Requested by Recipient Prior to the Conclusion of the Investigation

31 Resolution Requested by Recipient
Before the conclusion of an investigation, a recipient may request to resolve a complaint. Recipient does not need to make any admission of liability. OCR determines appropriate resolution: Agreement will be aligned with the complaint allegations or the information obtained during the investigation to that point, and consistent with applicable regulations. Complainant approval is not required. Complainant will be informed of the recipient’s request and will be kept apprised of the resolution process.

32 Benefits of Agreements Reached Prior to Conclusion of Investigation
Educational Efficient Cost Effective Benefits of this resolution option are very similar to benefits of ECR outlined above. One important difference is that here recipient works directly with OCR to achieve resolution and the complainant does not have any veto rights over the agreement reached. This resolution option gives the recipient the opportunity to resolve any compliance issues without OCR making a violation finding.

33 Resolution Agreements Reached Prior to Conclusion of Investigation
Appropriate for many types of discrimination complaints; e.g.: School district agrees to evaluate student with a disability University agrees to provide auxiliary aids to student with a disability School district agrees to ensure no different treatment on basis of race or sex in particular programs or services Agreements work particularly well in areas where recipient may need help with procedures: Harassment policies and procedures Grievance policies and procedures Procedures for communicating with limited English proficient parents

34 OCR’s Case Processing Manual

35 How To Reach Us Website:
Chicago Office: U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Chicago Office 500 W. Madison, Suite 1475 Chicago, Illinois 60661 Telephone: (312) FAX: (312) The website provides access to the regional office that has jurisdiction over the recipient in question.

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