Q. How does the Educational Opportunities Section (EOS) get involved in a case?

A. We are statutorily authorized to initiate suits under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, and under Title III of the American with Disabilities Act. There are also several federal statutes for which we have enforcement authority, although only after a referral from another government agency. Those statutes, generally, prohibit the recipients of federal financial assistance from discriminating on several bases ( Title VI, Title IX, Section 504, Title II of ADA, and IDEA). Finally, we intervene and participate as amicus in cases raising issues important to the Section's work and the enforcement of the federal civil rights laws as they pertain to education.

Q. What is the relationship between the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and EOS?

A. If OCR, after investigating a charge of discrimination against a school, school district, or college, determines that a violation of the law has occurred and conciliation efforts are unsuccessful, the Department of Education may refer the charge to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice may, within its prosecutorial discretion, initiate litigation.

Q. What is the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

A. The 1964 Act is the landmark legislation prohibiting discrimination in several areas including housing, employment and education. The sections of the Act relating to education are Title IV, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion or national origin by public elementary and secondary schools and public institutions of higher learning; Title VI, prohibiting discrimination by recipients of federal funds on the basis of race and national origin; and Title IX, permitting the United States to intervene in pending suits alleging discrimination.

Q. What is the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA)?

A. The EEOA prohibits specific discriminatory conduct, including segregating students on the basis of race, color or national origin, and discrimination against faculty and staff. Furthermore, the EEOA requires school districts to take action to overcome students' language barriers that impede equal participation in educational programs.

Q. What is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973?

A. Section 504 prohibits the exclusion, the denial of benefits, and discrimination by reason of disability in programs or activities receiving federal funds. OCR has primary responsibility for enforcing Section 504's provisions with respect to recipients of federal education funds.

Q. What is the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA)?

A. The IDEA requires States and local education agencies to provide a free and appropriate public education to children with disabilities. The Department of Education has primary responsibility for enforcing IDEA.

Q. What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

A. The ADA was enacted in 1990 to address discrimination against persons with disabilities (see also the ADA homepage). Title II of the ADA provides that no individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, program, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity. OCR has primary responsibility for investigating Title II complaints. Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public accommodations, such as schools, operated by private entities. The Department of Justice has primary responsibility for enforcing Title II as it relates to education.

Q. What is Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972?

A. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender by recipients of federal funds. Title IX has been applied to ensure adequate participation opportunities for female students in athletics and in cases of sexual harassment by school administrators, teachers and students. OCR has primary responsibility for enforcing Title IX's provisions with respect to recipients of federal education funds.

Q. I am an employee of a school district that I believe has discriminated against me. What should I do?

A. At least four options may be considered: (1) file an administrative grievance with the school district or teacher's union, (2) contact the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, (3) if the school district is under a desegregation order to which the United States is a party, contact EOS, or, (4) pursue a claim under EEOA.

Q. Do federal anti-discrimination laws extend to private schools?

A. If a school is private, it is not covered by Title IV. If, however, it received federal funds, it is subject to the federal statutes prohibiting discrimination by federal fund recipients: Title VI, Title IX, Section 504. Private schools are also covered by Title III of the ADA.

Q. My children and I are not U.S. citizens. Are they prohibited from attending public schools?

A. No. The Supreme Court has held that non-U.S. citizen students, regardless of their legal immigration status, have the right to attend public schools in the school district of residence.

Q. Can the Department of Justice assist an individual who alleges that she or he has been improperly represented by a private attorney?

A. No. Individuals who believe that they have been improperly represented by a private attorney may want to bring their concerns to the attention of the state bar association in their area.

Q. What if an individual would like to file a private lawsuit but cannot afford to pay for one?

A. That individual may want to contact a local legal aid agency to find out whether that agency can be of any assistance.