The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is the federal agency tasked with enforcing laws against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, and religion. If one believes that you or your child have been discriminated against because of your disability (or race, religion or gender for example) by a State or local government agency, or any covered entity, a.k.a. a public school, the OCR is an appropriate place to seek corrective action.
What is discrimination?
According to the OCR, covered entities, or schools, must not, on the basis of disability:
- Exclude a person with a disability from a program or activity;
- Deny a person with a disability the benefits of a program or activity;
- Afford a person with a disability an opportunity to participate in or benefit from a benefit or service that is not equal to what is afforded others;
- Provide a benefit or service to a person with a disability that is not as effective as what is provided others;
- Provide different or separate benefits or services to a person with a disability unless necessary to provide benefits or services that are as effective as what is provided others;
According to the OCR, schools must:
- Provide services and programs in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the qualified individual with a disability
- Ensure that programs, services, activities, and facilities are accessible
- Make reasonable modifications in their policies, practices, and procedures to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless it would result in a fundamental alteration of the program
What can I expect from the process of filing a complaint with the OCR?
The Office of Civil Rights protects students in many ways. When a complaint is filed they look at it and discuss among themselves: If all of the allegations are true, does this fall under our purview?
If so, they will take the complaint and open an investigation. The complaint is shared with the district and federal lawyers take over the investigation. There is no cost to the one filing the complaint, no getting a lawyer or advocate (you can but there is no need), just answering questions to OCR lawyers may ask. There is no direct interaction with the district.
Will the District be aware of a complaint filed with the OCR? Should I be worried about retaliation against me or my child?
The first time the school district hears of a complaint is if (AND ONLY IF) the OCR has moved the complaint into the investigation stage. Once the complaint is filed, a person actually has more protection than had he/she not filed, as retaliation is extremely frowned upon by the OCR (i.e. it is illegal). If a complaint is filed jointly and a summary is submitted, rather than individual comments or concerns, then no one will see your specific concerns nor know your name other than the two people putting this together … and the OCR; your name will be within the complaint. If and when the investigation starts, it is then that the district may learn your name.
Here is additional information if you want. Anyone can file with the OCR using the information here but we are doing this more as a group so there will be slight differences. Don’t fill out the form there if you want to join with us (power in numbers). See their web page.
This is the full OCR manual that is 30+ pages about the procedure.
And this is a much smaller part of that manual with my highlighting.
Join us in filing a complaint as a group, sending a single complaint from many parents experiencing the same issues.
All questions are required to have an answer! And you can withdraw at any time.