U.S. Department of Education. Office for Civil Rights (OCR). OCR Presents: What To Do When OCR Comes Knocking: OCR’s Case Resolution Tools. What Is OCR?.
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U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
OCR Presents:What To Do When OCR Comes Knocking:OCR’s CaseResolution Tools
What Is OCR? • The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is a part of the U.S. Department of Education and has headquarters in Washington, D.C. and has 12 regional offices • OCR’s mission is to ensure equal access to education programs and promote educational excellence through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws
Laws Enforced by OCR Title VI (race, national origin and color) Title IX (sex) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (disability) Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Age Discrimination Act Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act
OCR has jurisdiction over programs and activities that receive financial assistance from the Department of Education, such as: state education agencies elementary and secondary school systems colleges and universities state vocational rehabilitation agencies OCR also has jurisdiction over certain public entities under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, such as: public elementary and secondary school systems public colleges and universities public libraries and state vocational rehabilitation agencies OCR’s Jurisdiction
OCR Enforcement • OCR Enforcement • An important responsibility of OCR is the investigation andresolution of complaints of discrimination. • OCR also initiates some cases on its own. These are called compliance reviews, and they permit OCR to target resources on compliance problems that appear particularly acute.
OCR Enforcement OCR also provides technical assistance to help institutions achieve voluntary compliance with the civil rights laws that OCR enforces and to help parents and students understand their rights and responsibilities. Technical assistance includes, for example: • Presentations • Responses to telephone and written inquiries • Workshops • Consultation
Complaint Resolution OCR's goal is to resolve complaints of discrimination promptly and appropriately. OCR may use a variety of approaches to resolve the complaint. 8
Investigation of Complaints of Discrimination: FAQs • Which Complaints will be Investigated by OCR? • How Does the Recipient Know it is the Subject of an Investigation? • An Investigation: What Can the Recipient Expect? What are the Recipient’s Options?
Which Complaints will be Investigated by OCR? OCR Case Processing Manual (2008): OCR will investigate all allegations, which, if true, would constitute a violation of one of the laws it enforces.
Notification Letter • OCR will send a notification letter to the recipient and to the complainant. The letter will state the following: (a) the basis for the complaint; (b) a brief statement of the allegations over which OCR has jurisdiction; (c) a brief statement of OCR’s jurisdiction over the complaint; and (d) an indication of when the parties will be contacted.
Notification Letter “Opening the allegations for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to their merits. During the investigation, OCR is a neutral fact-finder, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence from the complainant, the recipient, and other sources, as appropriate. OCR will ensure that its investigation is legally sufficient and is dispositive of the allegations, in accordance with the provisions of Article III of the Case Processing Manual.” --
Resolution Tools • Investigations and Investigative Determinations • Early Complaint Resolution (ECR) • Resolution Requested by Recipient Prior to the Conclusion of an Investigation
Resolution Tools: Investigations and Investigative Determinations
OCR Investigation • OCR proceeds with investigation and makes compliance determination • Violation, with Agreement • No Violation
What to Expect in an OCR Investigation • Data Requests • Interviews, where appropriate • Possible On-site Visit, where appropriate
Investigative Determinations At the conclusion of the investigation, OCR will determine either: • the evidence is insufficient to support the complaint allegations; or • the evidence is sufficient to support a determination of noncompliance. OCR will then attempt to negotiate a voluntary resolution agreement with the recipient. If an agreement is not reached, OCR will proceed to enforcement, either through an administrative proceeding or through referral to the Department of Justice for judicial proceedings.
Resolution Tools: Early Complaint Resolution (ECR)
Early Complaint Resolution (ECR)What Is It? • ECR is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that is offered by OCR where appropriate as an alternative to the traditional investigative process • ECR provides the parties an early opportunity to voluntarily resolve the issues that prompted the OCR complaint without investigation
ECR Process • OCR determines that ECR is appropriate • Complainant and Recipient express willingness to engage in ECR • OCR facilitator is designated • Facilitator contacts parties and may arrange for a joint conference between parties • Once parties agree on resolution, facilitator assists parties in drafting agreement
OCR’s Role • To serve as facilitator. • To review the allegations and make sure the parties understand the issues, and, as appropriate, facilitate an understanding of pertinent legal standards and possible remedies • To establish a constructive tone and encourage the parties to work in good faith toward a mutually acceptable resolution • To facilitate a discussion between the parties regarding possible actions that the parties may consider in working toward a resolution • To maintain an impartial approach and inform the parties that OCR will not insist on particular terms or any specific resolution • To assist the parties in drafting any resolution agreement.
Role of the Participants • Individuals participating in the ECR sessions should have full decision-making authority • Parties are to participate in the discussions in good faith • Participants are to consider offers or suggestions with an open mind and to work constructively toward a mutually acceptable resolution; and • Implement any agreement in good faith
If ECR is Successful . . . • OCR will notify the parties that the allegation has been resolved • OCR will close the allegation • OCR does not monitor the agreement • If a breach occurs, the complainant may re-file the complaint
Benefits of ECR • Educational • Early and Efficient • Economical • Equitable
If ECR fails . . . • OCR resumes its investigation • Complaint returned to investigative team • Any notes taken by the facilitator and/or any records or other documents offered by either party to the facilitator during ECR will be kept in a separate file and will not be shared with the staff member assigned to investigate the complaint.
Successful ECRs: Disability (Section 504 and Title II) • Allegation concerns failure to implement student’s IEP; agreement results in school district’s agreement to implement IEP and/or clarification of IEP requirements • Allegation concerns failure to provide academic adjustments and auxiliary aids; agreement results in University’s agreement to provide these or to meet with student to evaluate request for academic adjustments/auxiliary aids
Successful ECRs: Sex Discrimination (Title IX) • Complaint filed by female athletes alleging that college failed to effectively accommodate their athletic interests and abilities; agreement results in reinstatement of swimming team • Complaint alleged that the school district failed to designate a Title IX coordinator; in ECR, district agrees to designate employee to be its Title IX coordinator and to revise and publish its notice of nondiscrimination, including contact information for coordinator
Successful ECRs: Racial Discrimination (Title VI) • Complaint alleges that student was subjected to racial harassment by other students; ECR agreement provides that school district will promptly investigate allegations of harassment and take appropriate responsive action, including possible discipline of the students involved • Allegation of different treatment in benefits provided by school district (e.g., access to Advanced Placement courses; afterschool programs); school district agrees to take steps to ensure that benefits are available to all students
Resolution Tools: Resolution Requested by Recipient Prior to the Conclusion of the Investigation
Resolution Requested by Recipient • Before the conclusion of an investigation, a recipient may request to resolve a complaint. • Recipient does not need to make any admission of liability. • OCR determines appropriate resolution: Agreement will be aligned with the complaint allegations or the information obtained during the investigation to that point, and consistent with applicable regulations. • Complainant approval is not required. • Complainant will be informed of the recipient’s request and will be kept apprised of the resolution process.
Benefits of Agreements Reached Prior to Conclusion of Investigation • Educational • Efficient • Cost Effective
Resolution Agreements Reached Prior to Conclusion of Investigation • Appropriate for many types of discrimination complaints; e.g.: • School district agrees to evaluate student with a disability • University agrees to provide auxiliary aids to student with a disability • School district agrees to ensure no different treatment on basis of race or sex in particular programs or services • Agreements work particularly well in areas where recipient may need help with procedures: • Harassment policies and procedures • Grievance policies and procedures • Procedures for communicating with limited English proficient parents
OCR’s Case Processing Manual Website: www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/ocrcpm.html
How To Reach Us Website: www.ed.gov/ocr Chicago Office: U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Chicago Office 500 W. Madison, Suite 1475 Chicago, Illinois 60661 Telephone: (312) 730-1560 FAX: (312) 730-1576