Discrimination in School Lawyers
What laws govern discrimination in a school setting?
Discrimination in a school setting is prohibited by a variety of federal laws. Schools may not engage in “selective admissions”, which is the practice of denying admission to school based on a protected category such as gender, race, or religious belief. They are also prohibited from providing preferential treatment on the basis of such categories.
General anti-discrimination provisions are contained in the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA), which prohibits public schools from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or nationality. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits schools that receive public funding from discriminating on the basis of race or religious belief. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bans discrimination on the basis of gender or sex.
Discrimination based on disability is prohibited by both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
In addition, each state may have its own laws that provide protection against discrimination in addition to federal acts. Anti-discrimination laws also apply to employment and hiring in an educational setting. Violations of anti-discrimination laws are serious and can result in severe legal consequences.
Is there a difference between public and private schools with regards to discrimination?
Yes, in general, federal anti-discrimination laws only apply to public schools or schools that receive federal funding. Thus, private schools are generally exempt from many federal discrimination laws.
Private schools typically base admission on a theme, such as a religious belief or gender. Examples of these are all-girls Catholic schools. If the private schools do not receive federal funding, then they might be allowed to exclude students who do not fit the school’s targeted demographic.
However, private schools must sometimes still adhere to anti-discrimination laws when it comes to race and gender. Many jurisdictions are split with regards to a student’s sexual orientation. There may be exceptions to these laws when dealing with private schools, so check your local laws for the specific polices enforced by local municipalities.
What remedies are available if I have been discriminated against by a school?
If you feel that a federally-funded school has discriminated against you on the basis of your race, sex, national origin, or religion, then you may be entitled to relief. Your first step should be to file a report with an administrative agency such as the U.S. Department of Education. The Department of Education has a separate branch called the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which handles discrimination claims.
You should make a detailed account of the incident and submit it to the OCR. Be sure to make a written report and include key information such as dates, locations, persons involved, and contact information of any witnesses.
The OCR will then conduct an investigation to determine whether any federal or state laws have been violated. They may prescribe a number of remedies such as an injunction requiring the school to implement new anti-discrimination policies.
Can I file a discrimination lawsuit?
If the school is federally-funded, you are usually required to file a report first with the Department of Education before you can file a lawsuit. The offended party usually must “exhaust their remedies” through an administrative agency before they can file a lawsuit. This means that a lawsuit can only be filed after an investigation by the agency has proven unsuccessful.
However, if the school is a private institution or does not receive federal funding, you can probably file a lawsuit right away. Whether you are suing a public school or a private school, you will be required to prove that the school was aware of the discrimination but did nothing to prevent it.
Do I need a lawyer for an educational discrimination claim?
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Last Modified: 03-23-2011 11:57 AM PDT
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