The United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently announced new protocol for its investigation of civil rights complaints. The office revised its Case Processing Manual, which sets forth how OCR investigates and resolves complaints of discrimination.
OCR enforces laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in educational institutions, including state education agencies, elementary and secondary school systems, and colleges and universities. Anyone may file a complaint of discrimination, and representation by an attorney is not required.
Changes to the Case Processing Manual include:
• OCR may now dismiss a wider range of complaints. For example, OCR may dismiss a complaint if the complaint is “a continuation of a pattern of complaints previously filed with OCR,” or “a complaint is filed for the first time against multiple recipients” and “places an unreasonable burden on OCR’s resources.” The manual does not explain what type of complaint would place an “unreasonable burden on OCR’s resources.”
• OCR will also dismiss a complaint if the complainant fails to provide necessary information within 14 days of the request (previously, the complainant had 20 days to provide the information).
• The educational institution previously had 15 days to submit data requested by OCR; now, the timeframe is established at OCR’s discretion.
• Neither party may appeal a determination by OCR.
According to a New York Times article published on April 20, 2018, the recent changes have resulted in the dismissal of over 500 disability rights complaints.