Federal Civil Rights Laws

Schools that receive federal funding are required to address discrimination based on several characteristics. Those characteristics, and the laws that protect them, are:

• Race, color, and national origin, which are protected under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI);

• Sex, which is protected under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX); and

• Disability, which is protected under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504); and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II).

Federal civil rights laws do not specifically prohibit discrimination based on religion or sexual orientation. However, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights has explained that they do protect members of religious groups from harassment based on shared ethnic characteristics. Additionally, they protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals from harassment based on gender.

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights explained what constitutes unlawful discrimination and what action schools are required to take in a Dear Colleague Letter issued in October 2010. Read it here.

When one of these laws has been violated, a complaint may be filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Learn more about the process for filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights by clicking here.