Educational Opportunities Section If You Have Been Discriminated Against

The Section's cases are derived from three sources. First, the Section brings cases under statutes for which it has direct enforcement responsibility. Second, the Section brings cases referred by other government agencies. Generally, these are cases that have been investigated by other agencies under statutes for which they have direct enforcement responsibility, and which have not proven capable of being resolved without court proceedings. Finally, the Section has authority to intervene in pending cases seeking relief under the Fourteenth Amendment, and may participate as an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") in cases raising issues important to the federal civil rights laws. Each of these sources is outlined below. If you believe you have been discriminated against, please contact the Educational Opportunities Section by telephone at (202) 514-4092 or 1-877-292-3804 (toll-free), by facsimile at (202) 514-8337, or by letter at the following address:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Educational Opportunities Section, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530

I. Statutes Directly Enforced by the Section

    A. Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on certain grounds (specified below) by school districts and colleges.

      1. Requirements for the United States to bring suit.

        a. Signed written complaint. Any complaints received and their sources are treated as confidential. The complaint need not provide any legal analysis or use particular language; it only needs to describe the conduct.
          Elementary and Secondary Schools. Signed by parent or group of parents complaining that child or children as members of class of similarly situated children are being deprived by the school board of the equal protection of the laws.

          Colleges. Signed by an individual or parent to the effect that she or he has been denied admission to or not permitted to continue to attend a public college because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

        b. The Attorney General must believe the complaint to be meritorious. To enable the Attorney General to make this determination, we may need to contact the person making a complaint to obtain additional information. The complaint should therefore include the address and telephone number of a person who can be contacted to discuss the complaint.

        c. The Attorney General must give notice of the complaint to the appropriate school board or college authority.

        d. The Attorney General must certify:

          Signer or signers of the complaint are unable in the Attorney General's judgment to maintain appropriate legal proceedings for relief.

          Persons are unable, either directly or through other interested persons, to (1) bear expense of bringing suit or (2) obtain effective legal representation.

          Institution of action would jeopardize the health, safety, employment, or economic standing of (1) such person or (2) such person's property.

          Institution of an action will materially further orderly desegregation.

          The Attorney General is satisfied that the board or authority has had reasonable time to adjust the condition alleged in the complaint.

      2. If the above conditions are met, the Attorney General, on behalf of the United States, may file a lawsuit in federal district court against the appropriate parties seeking appropriate and complete relief.

    B. Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 ("EEOA").

      1. The EEOA prohibits the following practices at the elementary and secondary school levels.

        a. Failure to take action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation in a school district's educational programs.

        b. Deliberate segregation on the basis of race, color, national origin.

        c. Failure to remove vestiges of deliberate segregation or a dual school system.

        d. Assignment to other than the school closest to residence within the school district of residence which results in greater segregation on the basis of race, color, sex, or national origin.

        e. Discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin in employment, employment conditions, and assignment of faculty and staff.

        f. Transfer of students if the purpose and effect is to increase segregation on the basis of race, color, or national origin among the district's schools.

    2. The receipt of a written complaint is not required.

      3. The Section must give notice to the appropriate agency of the conditions that violate the EEOA, and must certify that the educational agency has not, within a reasonable time after such notice, undertaken appropriate remedial action.

      4. The Section may bring a lawsuit on behalf of the Untied States or may intervene in a lawsuit brought by a third party.

    C. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Section enforces Title III of the ADA which concerns Public Accomodations and Services Operated by Private Entities. The Disability Rights Section has enforcement responsibility for other ADA titles.

      1. A private entity is any entity other than a public entity. Private entities that are considered public accommodations include nurseries, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private schools, and other places of education.

      2. The Attorney General has authority to bring suit in appropriate district court if there is reasonable cause to believe:

        any person or group or persons are engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination under Title III;

        any person or group of persons have been discriminated against under Title III; and

        the discrimination raises an issue of general public importance.

      3. Discrimination prohibited under Title III includes

        a. Discrimination on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.

        b. Use of eligibility criteria that screen out individuals with disabilities from equally enjoying any goods or services unless they can be shown to be necessary.

        c. Failure to make reasonable modification of policies and practices unless it can be shown that such changes would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods and services.

        d. Failure to take steps to make sure individuals with disabilities are not excluded because of the absence of auxiliary aids unless it can be shown that such steps would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods and services or would result in an undue burden.

        e. Failure to remove architectural barriers where such removal is readily achievable.

II. Referral Statutes

    A. There are several federal statutes for which we have enforcement responsibility upon referral from another government agency. These statutes, generally, prohibit the recipients of federal financial assistance from discriminating on several bases. The statutes are:

      Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits the exclusion, denial of benefits, and discrimination on the grounds of race, color or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal funds;

      Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits the exclusion, denial of benefits, and discrimination on the grounds of sex in programs or activities receiving federal funds;

      Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits the exclusion, denial of benefits, and discrimination on the grounds of disability in programs or activities receiving federal funds; and

      Title II of the ADA, which provides that no qualified individual with a disability shall be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.

    B. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), which requires that States and local education agencies provide a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities.

III. Intervention and Amicus Participation

    A. Intervention

      1. Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 permits the Attorney General to intervene in lawsuits seeking relief from denial of equal protection of laws under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on account of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Attorney General must certify that the case is of general public importance, and the United States is entitled to the same relief as if it had instituted the action.

      2. The Section may also intervene in cases brought under the statutes it enforces where the government has an interest or where a claim or defense has been raised based on a statute or regulation administered by a federal government officer or agency.

    B. Amicus Curiae ("Friend of the court"). The Section may file legal briefs or otherwise participate as an amicus in cases raising issues that are important to the Section's work or the general enforcement of the federal civil rights laws as they relate to education.

Updated August 6, 2015

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