U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

Annual Report to Congress
Fiscal Year 1996
U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights

OCR's Technical Assistance Helps People and Institutions

The aim of OCR's technical assistance is to prevent violations of the civil rights laws. This is accomplished by helping recipients comply with the laws and helping beneficiaries understand their rights. In view of the millions of students protected by the civil rights laws, OCR recognizes that its efforts alone are insufficient to stop illegal discrimination in education. Students, parents, and educators must have the knowledge and skills to prevent illegal discrimination from occurring in the first place.

OCR provides assistance to enable institutions to come into compliance during the complaint resolution process or during a compliance review. In addition, OCR also engages in a broad range of proactive outreach through such activities as on-site consultations, conference sponsorship and participation, training classes, workshops, and community meetings. Written and telephone guidance is also provided in response to tens of thousands of inquiries received annually. OCR continually compiles strategies and programs that hold promise in addressing civil rights concerns. Also, many OCR offices have developed customer service teams to be more responsive to our partners and stakeholders and members of the public. OCR has established a home page, which is located at http://www.ed.gov/offices/OCR/.

Impact of the Civil Rights Laws

Enforcement of the federal civil rights laws has helped bring about profound changes in American education as it has improved the educational opportunities of millions of students. Many barriers that once prevented individuals from freely choosing the educational opportunities and careers they would like to pursue have been removed. For example, we are witnessing a growing participation of minority students in Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Many school systems are now making it possible for students who are not yet proficient in English to participate effectively in their educational programs. Many more students with disabilities are now able, with the provision of supplementary aids and services, to participate in regular education classes. Female and male students are taking algebra, geometry, calculus, biology and chemistry in about the same proportion. There also has been a dramatic increase in the number of women entering traditionally male-dominated professional fields.

The civil rights laws have opened the doors to our schools and classrooms, our auditoriums, athletic fields and arenas. In response, people from the many diverse backgrounds that represent today's America are coming through the doors, on the way to becoming our future leaders in business, government, science, arts, and education.

Contacting OCR

Anyone who would like more information about the laws enforced by the Office for Civil Rights, how a person can file a complaint, or how OCR may provide technical assistance, may contact one of OCR's enforcement offices.

OCR has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to innovation and improvement of its civil rights enforcement efforts. Here are just a few examples of OCR's improvements:

"I strongly support [OCR's] philosophy that ... help[s] kids in a positive way. [OCR's] reviews will achieve twice the results of the old way of doing compliance reviews. We love [this] approach in Kansas and appreciate the Region's helpful and constructive way of working with our schools. ... [OCR's new approach] is a breath of fresh air from the federal government."
Dr. Dale Dennis
Interim Chief State School Officer, Kansas

OCR's operational improvement efforts have received special recognition. Three OCR offices -- New York, Kansas City, and Cleveland -- have received the Vice President's Heroes of Reinvention (Hammer) Award, in recognition of OCR's significant contributions to the streamlining and improvement of government. The awards resulted from OCR's work in resolving discrimination complaints, developing partnerships with stakeholders, and improving customer service.

Released: May 1997

| Responsibilities of the Office for Civil Rights | The Laws Apply to Educational Institutions | The Laws Apply to Students and Employees | OCR Responds to Discrimination Complaints from the Public | How OCR Resolves Complaints | OCR Conducts Compliance Reviews | OCR's Technical Assistance Helps People and Institutions | Impact of the Civil Rights Laws | Challenges |

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This page last updated on 12/28/00 (sbd)