Office of Civil Rights Reminds Schools of Their Obligation to Provide All Students a School Environment Free from Discrimination
On November 7, 2023, in the wake of unrest in the Middle East, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) released a Dear Colleagues Letter reminding pre K-12 schools and institutions of their legal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI). The letter emphasized that all schools, colleges, and universities that receive federal financial must comply with Title VI. These legal obligations include providing all students, including students perceived to be Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, and/or Palestinian, a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. The letter urges schools to ensure all students have the freedom to learn in safe and inclusive school environments as the tension in the Middle East continues to rise.
In addition, to the Dear Colleagues Letter, the OCR released an updated complaint form for complaints alleging violations of Title VI. The updated complaint form now extends “national origin” to include students who are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, or based on other shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics
What Does This Mean for School Districts?
In light of the emphasis from OCR, school districts should be alert for discrimination and harassment incidents on school grounds. It is each school district’s legal obligation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to address discrimination and potential violence against students as the conflict in the Middle East ensues.
The U.S. Department of Education Fact Sheet includes specific strategies for addressing civil rights violations. School officials should carefully review and institute, where appropriate, these policies of protection
The links below provide details on compliance with this directive, as well as the revised Civil Rights violation complaint form. Any person may file a complaint based on a perceived violation of Civil Rights protections enshrined in the historic legislation of 1964.
The Dear Colleague Letter
Updated Complaint Form
OCR Complaint Filing Training
Or email: OCR@ed.gov