Civil Rights

About the Civil Rights Review

Review Process

This page is specifically geared for the Hawaii DOE high schools and University of Hawaii Community College System campuses that are selected for our annual reviews.  We conduct these reviews under the general direction of USDOE-OCR to identify any issues of noncompliance or concern with regard to the school/college meeting its ongoing Federal civil rights obligations.  We recommend that the school/college view the civil rights review as an internal review.  While we cannot provide a “stamp of compliance,” simply put, we seek to alert the school/college administration of all civil rights violations and concerns directly or indirectly related to CTE programs and students so that those issues can be corrected before an actual complaint or lawsuit does occur.  Additionally, our visit helps to inform school/college administrators, faculty, and staff of various requirements they may not be aware of and how best to handle certain issues concerning civil rights.

If your school/college has been selected for on-site review, this page will provide information on what to expect, how to prepare, etc.


Selection of school/college for review – Selection letter/memo is typically between late-August to early-October, depending on the time it takes to obtain and review student enrollment data.  We typically select one UHCC college and two HSDOE high schools.  Selection is primarily based on under- or overrepresentation of students in the protected classes (i.e., by race, gender, limited English proficiency, and disability) in CTE programs vs. the entire school/college.  We also consider the time from the last review and take into consideration input from the UHCC/HSDOE administration.

Entrance meeting – Whether in-person or by tele/virtual-conferencing, the entrance meeting gives the school/college administrators and key personnel an opportunity to meet the MOA Coordinator (reviewer), discuss the review, and discuss any questions or concerns.  The entrance meeting follows the following AGENDA.  While the entrance meeting typically lasts about 90 minutes, we also ask for a brief tour of the school/college campus in order to make an informal assessment of facilities accessibility for the purposes of estimating time requirements to assess/inspect in-depth.  In order to allow for sufficient time for scheduling the actual on-site review and developing a Corrective Action Plan, it is best to hold the entrance meeting within 3 to 6 weeks after selection is made and notification provided.  This will allow the institution ample time to prepare for and schedule the actual on site review.  Given the nature of the review, it is beneficial for the following people to attend the entrance meeting:

  • HSDOE high school – Principal, Vice Principals overseeing CTE and/or facilities, CTE Coordinator, and the designee who will serve as the liaison, at a minimum.  Additionally, other vice principals, ELL Coordinator, counseling chair/head, and 504/SSC may benefit from attending.  Representative from HSDOE Civil Rights Compliance Office typically attend as well.
  • UHCC college – Chancellorc , Vice Chancellors, Title IX Coordinator, 504 Coordinator, CTE Dean/Chair, and the designee who will serve as the liaison, at a minimum.  Additionally, other administrators and personnel overseeing facilities, marketing/communications, counseling, and disability services may benefit from attending.

Pre-visit preparation and coordination -- There are a number of documents and materials that are needed ahead of the review as noted in this INFORMATION REQUEST for HSDOE SCHOOL or UHCC COLLEGE.  Advance provision of these documents, materials, and other information will help to expedite the actual on-site visit by allowing for more efficient interview discussions.  We will also request assistance from the designated school/college liaison to coordinate parking, workspace, and interviews/meetings.  Additionally, certain items, such as the personnel listing and facility construction/alteration history, are absolutely necessary before the review can take place, for scheduling purposes and for our reviewer to prepare for the on site visit.

On site visit – The length of the on site visit will vary by school/college depending on the size and location of the campus, number of CTE programs, and the types of accessibility issues for which we need to assess.  The length of the on site visit averages between 3 to 5 days for a HSDOE high school to 4 to 10 days for a UHCC college.  We can give a better estimate of the time requirements after the entrance meeting and campus tour.  The scheduling is also contingent upon the availability of the people with whom we’d like to meet.  We try our best to minimize our imposition as we recognize the overall burden the review presents.  The principal/chancellor and most others only need to be there for the scheduled interview/meeting and need not be present for the entire duration of the visit; however, it is typically extremely helpful that the designated liaison is fairly present or accessible/responsive (in person or by phone) here and there throughout the visit to assist with coordination of new/outstanding materials, information, and interview requests.  Do note that sometimes, additional days are needed just to meet with a person or two that wasn't available in the earlier part of the visit or to finish up with taking pictures/measurements for the accessibility review.  It is important to note that while the actual on site visit should occur over a fairly continuous period, it is understandable/acceptable that there may need to be an off-day in between, whether to work around schoolwide field trips, lockdown, or other major event impacting the school/college.

Letter of Findings – Within 60 days of completing our on site visit and obtaining any documents/materials necessary for our review, we will issue a Letter of Findings.  The Letter of Findings will address the eight areas of concern noted on the What the Review Entails section below.  We will discuss any violations that we determine as well as pertinent issues of concern.  The Letter of Findings are distributed to the school/college reviewed and the appropriate offices and administrators at the state level –Superintendent and Civil Rights Compliance Office for HSDOE reviews; VP for Community Colleges for UHCC reviews.  Additionally, the Letter of Findings are eventually sent to USDOE-OCR for review.

Corrective Action Plan – Within 90 days of the issuance of the Letter of Findings, the school/college under review will need to negotiate a Corrective Action Plan with the approval of our office to remedy the violations noted in the Letter of Findings.  The remedies must include specific details, timeframe of completion, how our office may verify progress/completion, and point of contact to provide assurance to our office and USDOE-OCR that the violations will be properly addressed.  We ask that the school/college provide an initial draft of its Corrective Action Plan within 45 to 60 days of the Letter of Findings to begin the negotiation process.  The timeframe for implementation of the individual remedies will vary depending on the nature of the remedy (e.g., USDOE-OCR allows 3 months for most signage or clearing of accessible pathways, 12 months for minor construction, and up to 24 months for major construction).  Once the Corrective Action Plan is finalized and accepted/approved, we will monitor implementation until all violations are fully remedied and report progress to USDOE-OCR.

What the Review Entails

We collect and review documents, media, and other materials, interview school/college administrators and faculty/staff, and conduct observation and assessment on site in our civil rights review.  There are eight areas of concern covered within the CTE civil rights review:

  1. Administrative Requirements, including notices of nondiscrimination and grievance procedures;
  2. Recruitment, Admissions, and Counseling;
  3. Accessibility of programs (in-person and distance education) and/or physical infrastructure for students to participate in CTE for-credit programs of study, or that students would utilize in their pursuit to graduate and obtain diploma or certificate noting CTE certification, concentration, commendation, etc. (therefore this accessibility review extends to facilities for core subjects and other graduation requirements as well as common areas);
  4. Comparable facilities for students with disabilities, limited English proficiency, or based upon gender;
  5. Services for students with disabilities;
  6. Financial assistance;
  7. Work study, cooperative CTE programs, and job placement; and
  8. Employment.

Document/materials review – There are a number of documents and materials that are needed ahead of the review as noted in the previously noted and linked information request.  The review of documents, materials, and other information allows us to become more informed of the school/college’s activities and efforts concerning civil rights compliance, particularly with regard to meeting of administrative requirements.  Advance provision of these documents and materials will help to expedite the actual on-site visit by allowing for more efficient interview discussions.  Do note and be assured that as we are conducting this review under the direction of USDOE, FERPA does not apply, but we will nonetheless maintain any and all student/employee information we encounter in strict confidentiality.  However, as we understand that many personnel may still have concerns with providing us access to certain information, it is fine to redact/anonymize personal identifiers or allow us to review under supervision.

On-site review – The length actual review depends on number, size, and location of programs and facilities, as well as the number of interviews.  Provided that we receive most/all of the requested documents and materials at least one week in advance of our on-site visit, the visit will primarily involve interviews with selected individuals and facilities accessibility review/inspection.  We seek to be as unobtrusive as possible.  Typically the initial day(s) of the on-site visit are comprised mostly of interviews with inspection of facilities filling any large gaps between interviews.  In the latter parts of the on-site visit, we will mainly focus on assessing facilities accessibility, but also conduct interviews with those individuals who could not be scheduled earlier or were identified during the course of our visit as parties with whom we would like to meet.  [NOTE: Under our review requirements by OCR, we review and consider policies, procedures, activities, and facilities that pertain not just to existing CTE students, but also potential CTE students.  In this regard, our civil rights reviews cover many aspects of the school/college that affect the general diploma-track/for-credit student population, including accessibility of core classes, common areas, etc.]

  • Interviews – The length of interviews will vary depending on the interviewee’s roles and responsibilities.  Interviews usually range between 15 to 90 minutes, but do occasionally extend longer.  During the interview, we may discuss a variety of topics to obtain a proper understanding of policies, procedures, activities, etc. and identify other pertinent individuals to meet with or additional documents/materials to review.  The interview gives us an opportunity to discuss how certain documents, etc., are developed or utilized and gain a better understanding of roles and responsibilities of various personnel.  Although we do not investigate complaints by specific individuals, we often do inquire upon specific situations for the purpose of assessing the implementation of policies/procedures (or lack thereof) and provision of applicable accommodations by the school/college.  The initial interviews we conduct are much more likely to be exploratory in nature than interviews we conduct during the latter portion of the on site review.  As we meet with various personnel and gain an understanding of various issues and situations of the school/college, the interviews in the latter portion of the on site review will tend to involve more pointed questions, in order to quickly gain clarification or confirmation of specific issues as we work towards completing the review within the scheduled timeframe.  It is important to note that in addition to maintaining student/employee personal information that we might become privy to in confidence, we also will honor interviewees’ requests for confidentiality in their sharing of sensitive information.  Finally, we do not conduct interviews with high school students or parents and though we do not schedule interviews with college students we may speak to these adult students in passing or upon their request.

  • Review of accessibility, comparable facilities, and services for students with disabilities – The accessibility review primarily assesses the school/college facilities and programs to determine whether students can access the educational environment in a manner equitable to their peers.  This portion of the review is based on pertinent or required aspects of potential and/or current students graduating with a major, concentration/honors, or other recognition as having completed a CTE program of study.  Consequently, the accessibility review is extremely comprehensive and goes beyond just the assessment of CTE facilities, but also covering access to core academic courses (English, Math, Physical Education), counseling and other student services, common areas (cafeteria, library, student parking lots, etc.  We consider many issues, such as whether persons with mobility and other physical disabilities can access physical site, buildings, and facilities, to thereby participate in programs in a manner equitable to their peers.  In large part, the accessibility review based on accessibility standards such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.  However, the accessibility review extends further to consider other situations, such as whether there are comparable facilities based on gender and limited English proficiency.  Additionally, we examine the services for students with disabilities which include accessibility of the school/college Web site, online resources, and distance education courses.  To assess the accessibility of building, facilities, and other physical elements, we will walk the campus and consider how individuals with disabilities would navigate the campus and function within their learning environment relative to non-disabled peers.  Given the complexity of accessibility requirements, our assessment often includes taking pictures/video and various measurements, along with testing doors, elevators, chair lifts, and other accessible elements.  This work will require an escort who can provide access to locked/restricted areas and equipment, assist with temporary closure of restrooms, and has general knowledge regarding programs’ location and use of facilities.  Similarly, for distance education courses, we meet with the school/college personnel that can provide access and assist in navigation of electronic/online courseware and resources.