Ed Department’s Office of Civil Rights Facing Record High Complaints

March 19, 2015

By Tara Garcia Mathewson at Education Dive

Dive Brief:

  • The number of complaints to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights have increased significantly, straining the division’s resources.
  • The Washington Post reports that the Department of Education has requested $30.7 million more next fiscal year to hire 200 more investigators and lawyers.
  • Complaints concerning sex discrimination have increased from 391 in 2014 to 2,354 in 2014, according to statistics gathered by The Washington Post.

Dive Insight:

The Department of Education issued guidance to colleges and universities in 2011 clarifying that Title IX obligates institutions to provide all students an environment free of sexual assault and harassment. The move was seen as an attempt to require colleges and universities to do more in the face of sexual violence on campuses, however it was an unexpected piece of guidance that has provided fodder for thousands more complaints.

The Washington Post quotes Robert Shibley, the executive director of civil liberties group FIRE, as saying the Office of Civil Rights brought on its own capacity problem with what he called “confusing” guidance. Federal statistics place the frequency of sexual assault on college campuses as high as one in four women suffering it during their college years. Up to 90% of victims, however, have historically gone without reporting their trauma. Perhaps it’s time for the Office of Civil Rights to be busier.

Recommended Reading

The Washington Post: Civil rights complaints to U.S. Department of Education reach a record high