Last Updated on April 10, 2021 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
The need to file a student discrimination complaint arises when a student is treated differently by people at a school or college (students, school staff, teachers) due to race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, age or other protected category. In this situation, parents may need to step in and file a discrimination complaint against the school to stop the illegal discrimination.
What Circumstances Warrant A Student Discrimination Complaint?
Before filing a student discrimination complaint, the context and what happened have to be evaluated to see if discrimination could have occurred.
For example, has the student been excluded from activities, such as a class trip, based on disability-related conduct (e.g. hyperactivity, seizures, hearing impairment, behavior, etc.)? Have students who were different races been treated differently in the exact same situation for no apparent reason?
Have school staff made some form of slur against a parent or student based on race or national origin? Was a college student removed from a university program, such as an internship, due to age?
Improper discriminatory conduct in schools and colleges occurs even today. This type of conduct may warrant a filing.
Where and When To File A School Discrimination Complaint
If a student experienced racial, disability or other discrimination within the last 180 days, the student can file a complaint with the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This is a great student’s rights agency which, if they accept your complaint, will step in, investigate, and hopefully help to resolve the problem.
How To File
Filings Beyond 180 Days
If you are beyond 180 days, you may still be able to file, but will have to justify the lateness of the filing to OCR.
When Should A Complaint Be Considered?
More students and parents may want to consider filing a student discrimination complaint if they cannot get anywhere directly with their school or school district. As parents and students have to show the discriminatory conduct in their initial complaint for OCR to accept it, convincing proof needs to be included in the discrimination complaint.
Is There A Filing Fee?
There is no charge to file the student discrimination complaint with OCR.
Filing with OCR Has No Relation to Any Court Case
Filing a student discrimination complaint with OCR does not impact any court case or timelines that may exist. An OCR complaint is administrative (involving government agencies and their intervention) and is not a prerequisite to filing a case in court.
If a student does not like the decision OCR makes, they may appeal it.
Education Attorney for Students
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.