Office of Civil Rights

Office of Civil Rights Q&A

As faculty members, it is important to also understand some of the protections available to university students.   The Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) is a branch of the U.S. Department of Education whose mission is “to ensure equal access and to promote education excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.”

What is the Office of Civil Rights?

The Office of Civil Rights enforces a number of Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in education.  This includes Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and nation origin; sex which is prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (remember – Title IX doesn’t just apply to athletes!); discrimination on the basis of disability prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination Act of 1975.

Many people think of Title IX only in the context of gender discrimination in athletics.  What many faculty members (and other university employees) often do not recognize is that Title IX applies to much more than athletics.

Which schools do these laws apply to?

These laws prohibit discrimination in state education systems, as well as many private entities that receive federal funding.

Who can make a complaint of discrimination in education?

Any person who believes that an institution receiving federal funding is discriminating (or has discriminated) on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age,  can file a complaint.  The person filing does not have to e victim, rather he can file on behalf of another person, or a group.

How do I make a report?

You can submit a report online, through the Office of Civil Right’s Website, or in writing.

Are there deadlines to report?

The complaint needs to be filed within 180 days of the act of discrimination.

What will the OCR in its investigation?

The OCR acts a neutral fact finder, not an advocate.  The OCR is dedicated to resolving complaints through a variety of ways that are agreeable to both parties.

Can I remain anonymous?

You do have the option to remain anonymous, although sometimes the OCR will request that you waive the right in order to help the investigation.

Faculty members should familiarize themselves with the Office of Civil Rights and the laws it works to uphold.  Although a faculty member may never make a report, or have to assist a student in doing so, it is important to have a good understanding of the laws that are applicable to the educational institution where you are employed.