National Guidance Materials
OCR’s policy guidance materials serve an important function: to notify schools and other recipients of federal funds of their legal obligations and the ways OCR enforces federal civil rights laws, helping them to comply with the law. In some instances, the guidance OCR issues directly responds to emerging trends in discriminatory behavior, as reflected in the Civil Rights Data Collection, requests OCR receives for technical assistance, and complaint investigations. Also, when precedent-setting cases in the courts clarify specific elements of application of the law, OCR utilizes “Dear Colleague” letters and accompanying supplementary materials to help ensure that the general public understands how the decisions apply to schools, districts, and educational institutions of higher learning. When appropriate, OCR issues guidance jointly with other civil rights offices, such as the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Learn about different types of guidance documents, including how to comment on significant guidance. Educational institutions may use OCR’s policy guidance to help adjust their own policies and practices to enhance civil rights protections for students and avoid committing civil rights violations, which may eliminate the need for OCR enforcement. And students, families, and communities may utilize this guidance to better understand students’ civil rights.
This handbook reflects the Department of Educations’s interpretations and guidance, as of the date of publication. It is intended for use by the Department’s program reviewers who are responsible for evaluating an institution’s compliance with the requirements as well as postsecondary institutions and outside reviewers.
These reports are submitted under Section 203(b)(1) of the Department of Education Organization Act of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96–88, which provides: “The Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights shall make an annual report to the Secretary, the President, and the Congress summarizing the compliance and enforcement activities of the Office for Civil Rights and identifying significant civil rights or compliance problems as to which such Office has made a recommendation for corrective action and as to which, in the judgment of the Assistant Secretary, adequate progress is not being made.” 20 U.S.C. §3413(b)(1).
Documents posted in the OCR Reading Room were published in the Federal Register or were otherwise made available to the public. Policy and legal interpretations announced in these materials may have been superseded or modified by federal court decisions or by later interpretations of the legal requirements involved. Placement of the document in the reading room does not reflect its importance relative to other OCR documents or to court decisions. The list of OCR documents currently available is not all-inclusive.