Video Summary: Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Compliants

This video covers what to do if you do not want to file a state complaint or request a due process hearing. If neither of these options appeal to you, you can access the United States Department of Education and file a discrimination complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). We will go over the from you will use should you want to file this kind of complaint. Know that if you file a complaint with the OCR, then request a due process hearing, the OCR complaint process will cease.

The form will ask you to provide your name, address, phone number, and email for both the person filing the complaint and the person being discriminated against (assuming they are two different people). You will then fill in information on the institution you’re filing the complaint against, whether that’s the school or school district. Following some basic details about that institution, you will choose on what basis you feel you were discriminated against (race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability), and for the purposes of this guide, we will assume your child was discriminated against due to their disability.

You will then be asked to specify the discriminatory act, and when the most recent instance of discrimination occurred. If the last instance occurred more than 180 days ago, you can request a waiver for filling in that date. You will also be asked if you had tried to resolve the situation through some other form before you filed the complaint, and for any other form this specific complaint has been filed in the legal system.

If you have another person for the OCR to contact in case you can’t be reached at a certain time, you can provide some contact information for them. If you have a specific resolution to the complaint (what you’d like to have happen to alleviate the discrimination), you can provide specifics on that as well. Finally, you’ll be asked to sign the form. Once you turn in the complaint, the OCR will investigate your claims to see if they are legitimate. If you’d rather file your complaint anonymously, there’s a section in the form to fill out make sure your name is not made known to the offending party.

A few other notes: part of the form lists the laws enforced by the OCR, and for our purposes, the law in question is section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the law that prohibits discrimination based on disability and gives you or your child the right a Free Appropriate Public Education, or a FAPE). Make sure that you know the exact part of the section 504 that you feel has been violated, so the OCR can better understand your complaint.

The form then goes on to outline how the OCR investigates complaints, and what it does when an institution is found in noncompliance of the statute you identified, or when your complaint is deemed inappropriate. You can also appeal a decision made by the OCR to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement. Finally, there’s a clause in the form stating that you should never be retaliated against for filing a complaint with the OCR, so if you feel threatened or intimidated by the institution you are filing the complaint against, make sure to report it to the OCR immediately.