Civil Rights Compliance FAQ's
Why does Career and Technical Education receive special civil rights attention?
Beginning in 1973, various civil rights advocacy groups, including the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP, sued the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now the Department of Education) on behalf of a plaintiff, alleging that the federal government was not enforcing the federal civil rights laws in education.
The Federal District Court of Washington, D.C. settled the case by issuing a consent decree in 1977 which required the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights to publish Guidelines for Eliminating Discrimination and Denial of Services on the Basis of Race, Color, National Origin, Sex and Handicap in Career and Technical Education Programs. Published in its final form in 1979, the Guidelines continue to remain in force.
The Guidelines require that each state is required to implement a compliance program to prevent, identify and remedy discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, handicap in vocational education programs operated by recipients of federal financial assistance.
The reviews are intended to ensure that students have access to career and technical education without regard to their race, color, national origin, sex, or disability. The onsite review is conducted to ensure that school districts and BOCES are in compliance with federal civil rights laws.
What are the required parts of the compliance and technical assistance program?
SED is required to:
- conduct an annual “desk audit” of all eligible school districts/BOCES using available enrollment statistics and other information to identify areas of possible non-compliance;
- conduct comprehensive onsite reviews of 2.5% of the districts/BOCES in the desk audit pool each year, identify findings of non-compliance and work with school officials to develop a compliance plan to remedy violations;
- monitor school districts for completion of their compliance plan; and
- respond to and help resolve civil rights complaints.
What federal civil rights laws are involved?
There are five major federal civil rights laws, and the Guidelines, which are used as part of the compliance review process. These laws and their federal regulations are:
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin. 34 CFR Part 100 (Title VI)
- Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. 34 CFR Part 106 (Title IX)
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. 34 CFR Part 104 (Section 504)
- Section 303 of the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age. 34 CFR Part 90 (Age Discrimination Act)
- Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. 28 CFR Part 35, Title II of the ADA (ADA)
- Guidelines for Eliminating Discrimination and Denial of Services on the Basis of Race, Color, National Origin, Sex and Handicap in Vocational Educational Programs (34 CFR Part 100, Appendix B).
How are compliance reviews conducted?
SED staff conduct onsite compliance reviews annually, and on the basis of need or as a result of civil rights complaints.
Compliance reviews consist of an analysis of data and documents supplied by the district or BOCES; on-site interviews with administrators, teachers, counselors and students; and observations/tours of the facilities. Documents are provided to SED prior to the on-site visit. The on-site visit is usually two days, depending on the number of facilities to be reviewed.
The findings are documented in a letter of findings which is usually sent to the district or BOCES within 30 days of the visit. The response to the findings, a voluntary compliance plan should submitted to SED within 90 days of the receipt of the letter of findings.
Compliance plans must detail how the school will correct the findings. After SED appproves a compliance plan technical assistance will be available to implement the plan. SED will monitor the district/BOCES until all plan activities have been completed.
All findings should be brought into compliance within two years of the site visit.
How can a district obtain technical assistance?
District and/or BOCES staff may contact SED to request:
- information about its civil rights responsibilities;
- help in developing and/or implementing a compliance plan;
- assistance in improving compliance with the civil rights laws and regulations, or to enhance its equity activities
- assistance in resolving civil rights complaints.
What penalties are imposed if a district doesn’t comply?
The SED must inform the federal Office for Civil Rights of all instances of a district’s unwillingness to comply, (e.g., refusal to provide all relevant information to the SED in order to conduct a compliance review, refusal to participate in the compliance review, not submitting an approved compliance plan, or not correcting violations).
The Federal Office of Civil Rights will conduct its own investigation based on information supplied by the SED. As a result of its investigation, it may seek voluntary corrective action or recommend that the Secretary of Education withhold all federal financial assistance from the district/BOCES.