Law Office of Michelle Ball discrimination,OCR Student Discrimination Complaints May Be Necessary

Student Discrimination Complaints May Be Necessary

student discrimination is illegal

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?  

gay lesbian student discrimination
Sexual orientation discrimination can be investigated by OCR

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

To file a student discrimination complaint, one just needs to follow the OCR procedures. There is quite a bit of helpful information for students filing complaints as well on the site.

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.

OCR student discrimination complaint
An OCR student discrimination complaint can be filed on line

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.

OCR Appeals

If a student does not like the decision OCR makes, they may appeal it.


1 thought on “Student Discrimination Complaints May Be Necessary”

  1. Sonia says:

    Hi Michelle,
    Your information about discrimination complaints in schools has been very helpful to me and has given me another perspective and hope that I can do something about it. My daughter is in 3rd grade and she has been discriminated for 3 years already. I have confronted the school staff all the time, but it is always my daughters' word against them. I really don't know if I should file a complaint and they are going to take it seriously because she's only 8 y.o.?
    Thank you.

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