According to federal laws that prohibit discrimination because of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in programs that receive federal financial assistance, any program or activity that receives funds from the Department of Education must operate in a nondiscriminatory manner.

Any educational or other institution or facility that receives federal financial assistance may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age so as to:

Schools may not discriminate against students because of pregnancy, parenthood, or marital status. Such discrimination includes barring a student from classes or extracurricular activities or expulsion.

In sports, schools must provide equivalent treatment, services, and benefits to students of both sexes.

Civil rights laws protecting individuals from discrimination in programs (all activities of an institution) that receive federal funds extend to all state educational agencies, elementary and secondary school systems, colleges and universities, vocational schools, proprietary schools, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, libraries, and museums that receive federal financial assistance.

These programs may include, but are not limited to, admissions, recruitment, financial aid, academic programs, student treatment and services, counseling and guidance, discipline, classroom assignment, grading, vocational education, recreation, physical education, athletics, housing, and employment.

Federal antidiscrimination laws apply to the entire program even if the federal assistance affects only a small portion of the program.

In addition, Executive Order 13,160 prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, sexual orientation, and status as a parent in federally conducted education and training programs.

If you think you or your child has been discriminated against by a public school, college, or university, or a private school, college, or university that receives federal financial assistance, you may file a formal complaint against the institution receiving federal funds with the appropriate regional office of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education or with:

U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-1100
(202) 245-6800
(800) 421-3481
Fax: (202) 245-6840

The person or organization filing the complaint need not be a victim of the alleged discrimination, but may complain on behalf of another person or group.

The complaint must be filed within 180 calendar days of the date of the alleged discrimination. However, if you already filed under the educational institution’s grievance procedures, you will be allowed 60 days from the last act of the institution grievance process. Your formal complaint should include the information outlined in chapter 2, and also state whether you think a whole group of students or teachers is being discriminated against.

Certain complaints should also be sent to the U.S. Attorney General, who may bring suit after receiving a written and signed complaint from:

These complaints should be sent to:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Educational Opportunities Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
(202) 514-4092
Fax: (202) 514-8337

If you think you or your child has been discriminated against on the basis of race, color, or national or ethnic origin by a nonprofit private school that is exempt from federal income tax, you should contact IRS at the following address. IRS can revoke the tax exemption of a private school that has a racially discriminatory policy, which includes discrimination on the bases of color and national or ethnic origin.

Internal Revenue Service
Director, Exempt Organizations Division
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW, 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20224
(202) 283-2300
Fax: (202) 283-8858

If you think your child has been discriminated against because of race, color, or national origin by a vocational, technical, elementary, or secondary school that is privately owned, operated for profit, and not run by a hospital, you should write to:

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Office of Equal Opportunity
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
(202) 482-6725
Hot line: (800) 767-0184
TTY: (202) 233-2489
Fax: (202) 482-6761

The Department of Veterans Affairs can act if it pays benefits for any veteran enrolled at the school or otherwise assists that school, even if the person discriminated against is not a veteran.

In addition, federal laws require that public schools provide a free, appropriate public education to children with disabilities. If you believe that your local school system has failed to identify your child’s disability, incorrectly identified your child as an individual with a disability, failed to provide an appropriate educational program for your child, failed to carry out the program established for your child, or has unnecessarily separated your child from other children for all or part of the school day, your child may have rights under one or more of the federal laws that govern the education of children with disabilities.

School systems must have formal procedures for identifying, evaluating, and establishing educational programs for children with disabilities. They must also offer a hearing when the parent and school officials disagree whether the program established for a child is appropriate.

Also, if you believe that your child’s civil rights were violated because of a failure to follow proper procedures for identifying, evaluating, or placing a student with a disability, or because of a failure to carry out the provisions of your child’s educational plan, or were otherwise violated because of discrimination based on disability, you may file a complaint by writing to the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.

For more information on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, write to:

U.S. Department of Education
Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
Mary E. Switzer Building
330 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20202-2500
(202) 205-5507
Fax: (202) 260-0416
TTY: (202) 205-9754