AGENCY OUTREACH ACTIVITIES

AGENCY OUTREACH ACTIVITIES

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Department of Justice 

Access to Justice Initiative

 

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Access to Justice Initiative (ATJ) supports the Civil Rights Division’s investigations under 42 U.S.C. § 14141 by engaging ATJ’s network of advocates. For example, ATJ reached out to leading juvenile justice organizations for a national conference call soon after the Civil Rights Division announced the findings from its investigation into allegations of due process and equal protection violations at the Shelby County, Tennessee juvenile courts and in the conditions of confinement in the juvenile detention center. ATJ helped convene a meeting of advocacy groups, researchers, foundation program officers, and others concerned about juvenile justice with the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, to explore the implications of the Shelby County matter for their own work and for safeguarding the rights of juveniles. These stakeholders were also invited to provide input on ways the federal government could continue to work to protect juvenile rights. As new investigations unfold, ATJ will continue to support the Civil Rights Division in its enforcement activities.

 

Find out more about Access to Justice at: justice.gov/atj

 

Civil Rights Division

 

Including community and stakeholder perspectives is integral to the Civil Rights Division’s Title VI enforcement responsibilities. The Division takes several approaches to ensuring that community groups, recipients, and other affected stakeholders have a voice in Title VI enforcement:

 

Conducting Outreach in the Community. Agency investigations frequently involve targeted outreach to community groups and individuals likely exposed to the complained-about behavior. However, even if there is no formal investigation in an area, the Division prioritizes making time to meet with recipients and community members when staff travel to a location for a conference, meeting, or unrelated investigation. With our budget limitations, building in supplemental outreach meetings has been a successful approach to cultivating and maintaining stakeholder relationships.

 

Welcoming Conference Opportunities and Listening Sessions. Division staff routinely participate as speakers and participants in national conferences and listening sessions. For example, in November, the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) worked with leaders of the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA) to organize a federal listening session at the organization’s Annual conference. Over ten federal agencies were represented, and NLADA participants were able to meet and share their civil rights concerns directly with agency contacts. Division staff also participated in two panel sessions on Title VI disparate impact, and language access in the courts and discussed current efforts by the Division and other agencies on both issues.

 

Formally Incorporating Stakeholder Input. In addition to meeting with community groups as we negotiate resolution with recipients in Title VI matters, Division staff often consider the formal role that community-based organizations and other stakeholders can have in monitoring compliance with Title VI resolutions or agreements. For example, recommending that recipients of federal funds create and consult with a neighborhood or stakeholder council or reserve seats exclusively for community members on a committee are some remedies Division staff employ to ensure continued stakeholder and community input during the resolution and monitoring of Title VI investigations.

 

Enhancing External Communications. The Division continues to research and test various platforms for announcing resolutions or obtaining additional witnesses or victims impacted by discriminatory actions. Through our website, Twitter, the Division’s blog, and multilingual press releases, we continue to learn and employ various strategies for educating the public about our Title VI work.

 

Developing Longstanding Relationship. Lastly, many Division staff have developed  longstanding, productive working relationships with national and community-based organizations. Through our outreach listed above, Division staff continue Title VI enforcement conversations with stakeholders through check-in phone calls and emails. The Division also encourages staff to make themselves available to stakeholders and community partners to help us stay abreast of civil rights developments. FCS staff can be reached at FCS.CRT@usdoj.gov. For additional information and materials, visit go.usa.gov/JQew.

 

Office of Justice Programs

 

 The Office of Justice Programs’ (OJP) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is the principal agency within DOJ that enforces Title VI. Communicating with community members and advocacy groups is crucial to Title VI enforcement, and over the years, OCR-OJP has enhanced its outreach efforts, which require intensive preparation to produce effective outcomes. OCR has conducted hundreds of Title VI compliance reviews of DOJ-funded law enforcement agencies that focus on language-access services to limited English proficient (LEP) communities. The key element in all OCR language-access compliance reviews is preparing in advance and then listening once onsite.

 

Preparation Prior to Onsite Visit. Prior to an onsite visit, OCR identifies community leaders and local organizations that may have first-hand knowledge of a law enforcement agency’s encounters with LEP residents. OCR does so through a variety of sources, including Internet searches and communications with the law enforcement agency under review, the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, the DOJ’s Community Relations Service, and national advocacy organizations. OCR then contacts the community leaders by email to explain OCR’s mission and the need for community feedback, and to invite the community leaders to a private onsite meeting with OCR’s investigative attorneys. OCR ordinarily follows up the emails with telephone calls and a hard-copy invitation.

 

In requesting the participation of community leaders in the compliance review process, OCR informs the invitees that the meeting is a private. By stating this upfront, OCR sets the agenda and determines who may attend. OCR does not necessarily limit the attendees, however, to those on the initial contact list. OCR’s written invitation encourages community leaders to suggest other organizations or community leaders that they would like OCR to invite. OCR discourages officials from the law enforcement agency from attending the meeting to promote an environment that encourages free discourse, the invitations also clearly state that the event is not open to representatives of the news media. Consistent with DOJ’s own internal language-assistance guidelines, as well as to lead by example, OCR ensures it has sufficient advance notice to provide appropriate interpretation. The written invitations always ask whether there may be a need for an interpreter at the community consultation.

 

OCR also carefully selects the venues for community consultations, making sure that they are in easily accessible public buildings that either have ample parking or are close to public transportation. A favorite OCR venue for a public meeting is the community room at a public library. In large cities, OCR may hold more than one community consultation. OCR may schedule multiple meetings in different neighborhoods to encourage the participation of certain language groups. Neighborhoods within the same city may also have significantly different experiences of language-access services depending on the local police precinct or law enforcement district.

 

At the Onsite and Afterwards. At the community meeting, OCR explains its role and the purpose of soliciting community feedback, provides a clear agenda, and establishes the protocols for the discussion. One of the most important ground rules is giving every person at the meeting an opportunity to contribute, which often entails getting all participants to agree not to speak a second time before others have had a chance to speak. OCR is careful to strike a neutral tone in soliciting information about a recipient’s delivery of language-access services because the focus is not only deficiencies but also successes.

 

Ordinarily, OCR holds the community consultations prior to initiating the onsite visit to the law enforcement agency because the issues community leaders raise in the consultation often inform OCR’s interviews with the recipients. Afterwards, OCR’s compliance review reports at the end of its investigations always include a section that summarizes feedback from community leaders on the recipient’s language-access services, noting both their positive and negative comments as well as their recommendations for improvement.

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Department of Transportation

 

Stakeholder outreach and input is an essential part of DOT’s civil rights program, which includes training. For example, on February 4-6, 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) hosted 12 live sessions of the DOT Virtual Civil Rights Symposium entitled “Broadening Perspectives,” which gathered experts from across the federal government to speak on current, forward-moving topics to broaden participants’ perspectives on how civil rights are integral to the DOT mission. The Symposium provided a training platform featuring several Title VI sessions, including a presentation on the critical role that metropolitan planning organizations can have in enforcing Title VI by performing equity analyses of long-range transportation plans to ensure that disadvantaged populations have access and are protected from discrimination in transportation decision-making. More than 800 federal and state employees, transportation stakeholders, and civil rights practitioners participated. More information on DOT’s stakeholder outreach and input efforts can be found at:

 

The Federal Aviation Administration Title VI page: go.usa.gov/tfre

 

The Federal Highway Administration Title VI page: go.usa.gov/tfY5

 

The Federal Railway Administration Title VI complaint template: go.usa.gov/tfrw

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Department of Health and Human Services

 

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is HHS’ sole agency responsible for enforcing compliance with civil rights obligations, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Consistent with Title VI, OCR develops ongoing communication with entities receiving federal financial assistance from HHS, advocates, and stakeholders to promote awareness and compliance with Title VI. OCR engages directly with advocates and stakeholders through presentations at conferences, participation in webinars and use of social media. OCR also partners with communities to produce educational Title VI products such as the OCR collaboration with the Association of American Medical Colleges to develop curricula for a Title VI medical school course, examining the impact of civil rights laws on health care disparities, which is available in person or online.

 

OCR often works with stakeholders to address Title VI compliance concerns that they encounter in their communities and has initiated compliance reviews based on advocates and stakeholders’ reports of egregious discrimination. These groups have been especially helpful in raising Title VI issues effecting communities with limited English proficiency. OCR regularly posts Title VI settlement agreements and press bulletins to its website (hhs.gov/ocr) as resources for advocates, stakeholders, and covered entities – highlighting how OCR uses Title VI to ensure nondiscrimination in federally funded activities.  

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Department of Homeland Security

 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) regularly communicates with individuals and communities whose civil rights and civil liberties may be affected by the Department’s federally conducted or assisted programs and activities. One unique mechanism that CRCL employs in engaging stakeholders is the Community Roundtable Model. Community Roundtables provide individuals and community leaders with an opportunity to interface routinely and directly with DHS and other federal, state, and local partners on important issues, including concerns that arise from DHS conducted or assisted activities. Roundtables are held quarterly in cities throughout the country, and are hosted by federal agencies and community organizations on an alternating basis. Information gathered at roundtables can play a vital role in helping to inform policy and compliance activities, and improving the effectiveness of existing policies and programs. For more information about community engagement and the community roundtables, email commmunityengagement@hq.dhs.gov.

 

For more information about CRCL, or to file a complaint, visit: dhs.gov/crcl, or email crcl@dhs.gov.

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Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

 In December 2014, HUD announced the availability of a wide range of fair housing outreach materials on the civil rights laws, including Title VI. Funded by HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP), the National Fair Housing Alliance has posted its catalog of Public Service Announcements and Education and Outreach Materials at: www.nationalfairhousing.org in the Fair Housing Resource Center. The materials are provided in multiple media, and many offer language options, including Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

 

Most recently, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) presented a webinar training to 150 FHEO employees on its new investigation guidance memo, “Conducting Investigations and Compliance Reviews Involving Limited English Proficiency (LEP) under Title VI” on December 10, 2014.  

 

For more information on fair housing under Title VI and the Fair Housing Act, or to file a complaint, visit the FHEO website at, go.usa.gov/tGN4. To contact a local office, visit: go.usa.gov/tGNz.

Department of Labor Hosts Title VI Stakeholders Outreach Events:

The Department of Labor-Civil Rights Center (CRC) has hosted and participated in several events with stakeholders to raise awareness of its work enforcing Title VI, and specifically its language access efforts. In October 2014, CRC hosted a conference call with representatives of the National Language Access Advocates Network, during which CRC provided information about the its enforcement, policy and compliance work relating to Title VI language access. Also in October, CRC staff presented on language access and Title VI at the National Association of State Workforce Agencies Equal Opportunity conference. In November 2014, CRC staff participated in a panel discussion on civil rights in federal programs at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association Annual Conference. Most recently, CRC hosted a webinar related to Title VI enforcement by the CRC, including a segment on the use of machine translation to meet Title VI language access requirements for its stakeholders.

 

The DOL-CRC website, go.usa.gov/tGP4, includes a section on filling complaints in multiple languages. 

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Department of Education

 

The importance of stakeholder outreach and participation is reflected in the over 200 technical assistance events the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has provided on Title VI–related issues over the past two fiscal years. These events include presentations on the application of recent Supreme Court rulings (e.g., Fisher v. University of Texas) and their implications on schools and districts, overviews of OCR’s discipline guidance package, and information on ED’s desegregation grants. Others include the June 17, 2014 ED co-sponsored event with the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality to highlight recent reforms in school discipline policies and practices and the need for promising approaches that assure equitable discipline in America’s schools.

 

The significance of stakeholder involvement to ED-OCR’s ongoing mission was highlighted especially at the July 2, 2014 public event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. OCR’s ongoing outreach efforts in 2014 have included the announcement explaining OCR’s resource equity guidance in October, which reinforced the necessity of providing students of color with equal access to educational opportunities, as well as a panel discussion on November 12, 2014, on ED’s work to address disparities for women and girls of color, eliminate sexual violence in elementary and secondary schools, and increase girls’ access to equitable educational resources. ED’s outreach efforts to stakeholders on Title VI matters in 2014 concluded in December with the joint ED and DOJ release of the correctional education guidance package related to improving practices and ensuring nondiscrimination in juvenile justice facilities.

 

The New Year brings more opportunities to address the issues that are at the core of OCR’s mission and stakeholders’ lives and to renew ongoing efforts, such as OCR’s participation in the Supportive School Discipline Initiative (SSDI). SSDI brings a number of federal agencies together to promote positive school discipline approaches and alternatives to exclusionary discipline. OCR will also continue its active participation with the My Brother’s Keeper program, a cross-agency initiative, announced by President Obama in February 2014, to support positive outcomes for men and boys of color.

 

OCR emails thousands of stakeholders with OCR news to keep them updated on important policy developments (subscribe here). For example, on March 2014, OCR issued four comprehensive briefs addressing school discipline, early childhood education, college and career readiness, and teacher equity. Each snapshot document provides educators, administrators, policymakers and researchers with data revealing nationwide trends in educational equity that provide a useful starting point for local districts and schools to analyze their own data and trends. To access them and the ED OCR Civil Rights Data Collection, please visit http://ocrdata.ed.gov. OCR also keeps stakeholders informed of policy guidance releases and resolution agreements via Twitter, @edcivilrights. To contact OCR on a Title VI matter or to file a complaint, email OCR@ed.gov or visit go.usa.gov/tGfx.