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Office for Civil Rights Delivers Annual Report to Congress Highlighting Major Milestones and Achievements in Protecting Students’ Rights

WASHINGTON — Today, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released its Annual Report to the Secretary, the President, and the Congress (Annual Report) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. The Annual Report illustrates the significant progress made throughout the first three fiscal years of the Trump Administration (FYs 2017-19) in processing complaints, closing cases, and requiring schools to protect students’ civil rights.

“This report demonstrates that OCR is once again the neutral, fact-finding agency that it should be, and as a result, students have seen swift justice when their school has failed to protect them,” said Secretary DeVos. “Despite the media’s efforts to ignore OCR’s track record under this Administration, the facts speak for themselves: Because of the hard work at the Office for Civil Rights, more students are getting results, and institutions are being held accountable. I applaud Assistant Secretary Marcus and the entire OCR team for this important accomplishment on behalf of students.”

“As I look back at what OCR has accomplished over the last few years, I am deeply proud to have been a part of this work and grateful to my hardworking and dedicated colleagues who enforce the federal civil rights laws on behalf of our nation’s students and their families,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth L. Marcus. “Together, we have made a real difference in so many areas and, more importantly, in the lives of so many students. As a result of our focus on enforcement and fidelity to the law, we have in fact achieved better results for our nation’s children.”  

In the previous report, the Annual Report to the Secretary, the President, and the Congress for fiscal years (FYs) 2017-18, OCR highlighted the drastic improvement in the quality and quantity of OCR’s case resolutions. During the first two years under the Trump Administration, OCR has vastly outpaced its activity under the Obama Administration. In one year alone, OCR has launched three times more proactive investigations than the prior administration launched in all eight years combined. It has also resolved nearly double the number of civil rights complaints per year and achieved a 60% increase in the annual number of complaints resolved with change compared to the prior eight fiscal years. In this year’s report, OCR illustrates how it has built on those successes while, at the same time, accomplishing several additional milestones during FY 2019, including:

  • Launching over 700 proactive investigations in two national initiatives focused on improving outcomes for students with disabilities;
  • For the first time in a decade, reducing the number of complaints older than 180 days in every one of OCR’s 12 regional offices;
  • Resolving one of the most extensive investigations that OCR has ever conducted in American higher education, requiring Michigan State University to make sweeping changes to the way it addresses sexual assault in light of its mishandling of sexual misconduct by Larry Nassar and others;
  • Completing the largest ever OCR investigation into systemic sexual assault problems in an urban public school system, requiring Chicago Public Schools to overhaul the process it uses to handle reports of sexual harassment;
  • Establishing the National Web Accessibility Team, a nationwide team of dedicated OCR staff, including attorneys, investigators, and information technology experts, to make technology accessible to all, including students with disabilities;
  • Improving the quality of OCR’s authoritative Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) by instituting data quality reforms and expanding a partnership with the Department’s National Center for Education Statistics; and
  • Conducting landmark regulatory reform by proposing a rule that would codify, for the first time, a school’s obligations under Title IX with respect to claims of sexual misconduct.

In addition, OCR has substantially reduced the backlog of pending complaints inherited from the prior administration. During this process, OCR resolved significantly more complaints with change compared to the prior three years. Over the course of FYs 2017, 2018, and 2019, OCR:

  • Closed 6,431 of the 7,854 complaints inherited from the prior administration in January 2017;
  • Resolved 42,515 complaints—which is nearly 15,000 more resolutions than the previous administration achieved during FYs 2014, 2015, and 2016 combined; and
  • Achieved a total of 4,656 complaint resolutions with change over three years, or 1,507 more complaints resolved with requiring schools to make a change to their policies and procedures than the previous administration achieved during FYs 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Pursuant to Section 203(b)(1) of the Department of Education Organization Act of 1979, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights is required to make a 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 Judgement of the Assistant Secretary, adequate progress is not being made.” 20 U.S.C. § 3414(b)(1). Each of OCR’s Annual Reports since FY 1990 are made publicly available on OCR’s website here.

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