At the start of 2014, the U.S. federal government issued a legal guidance that sets standards on how public schools should manage student behavior without violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination. This came after growing concerns that Africa-American and Latino students were disproportionately the subject of school disciplinary actions. If you feel that your child has been discriminated against, you may be able to seek a remedy from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Even then, a civil rights attorney may be useful in helping you to determine whether you have a feasible claim.
Key laws prohibiting discrimination in school
Several federal laws prohibit discrimination in school based on protected categories including gender, age, color, belief, national origin and disability. In particular, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discriminative acts such as segregation, racial harassment, ability grouping, inter-district school transfers, and racial harassment in schools that receive federal funding.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 makes it illegal for schools that receive federal funding to discriminate based on gender. Equal access to athletic programs and sexual harassment are few examples covered under Title IX. Meanwhile, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act all require public facilities to provide equal opportunities to people with disability. Elementary and secondary students with disability can access free education in federally funded schools.
Discrimination in private schools
Private schools can, to an extent, discriminate against a student or potential student in a way that a federally funded school cannot. Private sectarian schools affiliated to a religious group may receive some funding from the federal government. As such, these private schools are prohibited from discriminating based on race, belief, national origin and sex. Unless, the school is a single-sex institution, it should also not discriminate based on sex. Some private schools do not receive federal funds in any way. These schools may select who to admit even if it means discriminating based on protected categories including sex, religion, sexual orientation, and race.
Taking legal action against discrimination
For cases of discrimination in schools that receive federal funding, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) under the Department of Education allows you to file a complaint within 180 days of the incidence occurring. Discrimination in private schools can be a complex issue. You may be able to file a lawsuit if you feel your child has been denied an opportunity to attend a particular education institution. However, you might want to consult an attorney who will help you in seeking remedies if you have a viable claim.