Last Updated on August 10, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
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 another protected category, a discrimination complaint may be warranted. If schools won’t act quickly, parents may need to step in and file the complaint with an outside agency to stop the illegal discrimination.
What Circumstances Warrant A Student Discrimination Complaint?
Before filing a complaint, the context and what happened have to be evaluated to see if student discrimination may 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 legitimate 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 the 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 OCR site.
Filings Beyond 180 Days
If the matter occurred beyond 180 days, a parent or student 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, school district or university. 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 initial discrimination complaint filing.
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 potential court case or timelines that may exist for that filing.
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.
Other Places Where Discrimination Complaints Can Be Filed?
There are other places where discrimination complaints can be filed, including with the school district itself, a local grand jury, or the United States Department of Justice.
With administrative complaints, however, usually a parent has to pick one agency where they will file, as they may not get two chances.
In other words, if a parent files a complaint in a school district and does not like the outcome, they cannot just jump over to OCR for them to take a new filing. OCR will usually not take a new complaint if another agency has already investigated it, except under certain limited circumstances.
Student lawyer and advocate Michelle Ball assists parents and students to stop discrimination in schools and colleges and to file complaints with the Office for Civil Rights. As a student attorney in Sacramento California, Michelle Ball can assist students across California, in places such as Napa, Roseville, Auburn, Fair Oaks, Fairfield, Newcastle, Auburn, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Huntington Beach, and other cities.
Originally published February 5, 2011
1 thought on “School Discrimination Complaints Are Critical For Students”
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.?
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