Educational Opportunities Section
Educational Opportunities Section
Sixty years ago, in its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court held that the intentional segregation of students on the basis of race in public schools violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Subsequent federal legislation and court decisions also mandate that school officials not discriminate against students on the basis of color, sex, national origin, language barrier, religion, or disability. The Educational Opportunities Section enforces these statutes and court decisions in a diverse array of cases involving elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education.
Specifically, the Educational Opportunities Section is responsible for enforcing Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which gives the Attorney General authority to address certain complaints of discrimination alleging denials of equal protection to students based on race, color, national origin, sex, and religion by public schools and institutions of higher learning; the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 which, among other things, requires states and school districts to provide English Learner students with appropriate services to overcome language barriers; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability by state and local entities, including schools.
The Section also plays a significant role in enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin by recipients of federal funds), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities by recipients of federal funds), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal funds), with respect to recipients of funding from the Department of Justice. In addition, the Section may intervene in private suits alleging violations of education-related anti-discrimination statutes and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The Section also represents the Department of Education in lawsuits.
Educational Opportunities Section News
View a Discussion Exploring the Pandemic’s Effect on English Learner and Immigrant Students and Potential Ways to Address Their Needs
On September 14, 2022, the Civil Rights Division’s Educational Opportunities Section and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights co-moderated a virtual panel discussion, “Equity in the Classroom – The Pandemic and Access to Education for Immigrant and English Learner Students.” The event brought together researchers, former school administrators, and advocates to explore the impact of the pandemic on English Learner and immigrant students, and potential ways to address their needs this school year and beyond. The panelists included:
- Amaya Garcia - Deputy Director of PreK–12 education with the Education Policy program at New America
- Martha Hernandez -- Executive Director of Californians Together
- Susana Cordova -- Superintendent-in-Residence at Transcend
- Elliott Tait -- Education Unit Head at South Carolina Legal Services in Charleston
Fact Sheet: Confronting Discrimination Based on National Origin and Immigration Status
On August 19, 2021, the Civil Rights Division (the Division) of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education jointly issued an updated resource for families and educators on confronting discrimination based on national origin and immigration status. The document recognizes that children sometimes face barriers to enrolling or participating in school because of limited English proficiency or because they or their parents or guardians are not U.S. citizens or lack immigration documentation. The document reminds parents that schools may not prohibit or discourage such children from enrolling in school and must offer them language assistance services and provide their parents with school-related information in a language they can understand. The resource also includes examples of the types of incidents the Division and OCR can investigate as well as information on how to file a complaint with the Division and OCR.
Fact Sheet: Confronting LGBTQI+ Harassment in Schools
On June 23, 2021, the Civil Rights Division (the Division) of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education jointly issued a resource for students and families on confronting LGBTQI+ discrimination in schools. The document recognizes that in schools around the country, LGBTQI+ students have reported bullying and harassment by classmates because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. The document provides timely examples of the kinds of incidents the Division and OCR can investigate and reminds parents of specific actions that can be taken by families when schools fail to respond to reports of harassment or other forms of discrimination based on sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. It also provides information on how to file a complaint with the Division and OCR.
Fact Sheet: Confronting COVID-19-Related Harassment in Schools
On May 10, 2021, the Civil Rights Division (the Division) of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education jointly issued an updated resource for students and families on confronting COVID-19 related bullying and harassment against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students. The document recognizes that in schools around the country, AAPI students have reported bullying and harassment by classmates because of their race or national origin, including their ethnicity, ancestry, and language. The document provides timely examples of the kinds of incidents the Division and OCR can investigate and reminds parents of specific actions that can be taken by families when schools fail to respond to reports of harassment based on race or national origin. It also provides information on how to file a complaint with the Division and OCR. The resource is available in twelve AAPI languages.
မြန်မာစကား (Burmese) | 简体字 (Chinese - Simplified) | 簡體字 (Chinese – Traditional) | Hakha Chin (Hakha Chin)| 日本語 (Japanese) | ကညီကျိာ် (Karen) | ខ្មែរ (Khmer) | 한국어 (Korean) | ພາສາລາວ (Lao) | Tagalog (Tagalog) | ไทย (Thai) | Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
Department of Justice and Department of Education Dear Colleague Letter on the Rights of All Children to Enroll in Public Schools
The Departments of Justice and Education issued an updated set of guidance documents to all public school districts reminding them of their obligation under federal law to provide equal educational opportunities to all children residing in their districts, and to offer assistance to ensure they are complying with the law.