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Combating National Origin Discrimination in Schools

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“[Education]” is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202222-23 (1982) (quoting Brown v. Bd. of Educ., 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954).

The Educational Opportunities Section (the “Section”) of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is committed to protecting students from discrimination based on national origin. This includes protecting students who are learning English and who need language assistance services to fully participate in school (“English Learners”). Through its decades-long efforts to enforce the Equal Educational Opportunities Act and Titles IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Section has investigated and resolved dozens of complaints involving discrimination based on a student’s national origin or status as an English Learner. In addition, the Section has developed guidance and resources for school districts and for families to help protect all students’ access to a meaningful education.

If you would like to report a complaint that a school district has discriminated against students or parents based on their national origin please visit the Civil Rights Division Portal.

This site will provide more information about the ways that national origin-based discrimination occurs.  These forms of discrimination can include barriers to school enrollment and registration, inadequate language programs and services for English Learners and parents with limited proficiency in English, and improper responses to harassment and bullying. For more information about the Section’s work to combat national origin discrimination, read the summaries of our recent investigations, and visit the resources section of this site.


Types of national origin discrimination in schools

What can DOJ do?

Recent investigations and agreements

How to report


Updated June 16, 2023