“Dear Colleague” Letter Revisits the Importance of Protecting Students from Discrimination in the Allocation of Educational Resources

By November 5, 2014April 29th, 2015News

On October 1, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education issued a new “Dear Colleague” letter highlighting the importance of protecting students from discrimination when allocating educational resources. This letter builds on the January 19, 2001, “Dear Colleague” letter on this topic and provides guidance for how school districts can ensure compliance with Title VI.

The letter explains that to comply with federal law when allocating their resources school districts must be mindful to not exacerbate but rather remedy achievement and opportunity gaps for their students of color. To assist school districts with meeting this obligation, the letter outlines the legal obligations educational officials have under federal law, and how the Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”), investigates and analyzes alleged Title VI violations against school districts. The letter also outlines ways officials can prevent and remedy this issue thereby ensuring that their districts are in compliance with Title VI.

To assist educational officials in complying, OCR explains its methodology in investigating claims of a school district discriminating in its allocation of educational resources. One example is the two-pronged approach in handling allegations of intentional discrimination, which include: (1) examining the quality, quantity, and availability of critical educational resources to determine disparities among schools serving similarly situated students or similarly situated students within the same school; and (2) providing the school district an opportunity to explain any differential treatment so as to assess whether there existed any legitimate, nondiscriminatory, educational explanation from the school district.

Additionally, OCR takes into consideration that resources may appropriately be allocated differently to meet schools’ differing needs, but nevertheless encourages districts to proactively identify and address racial disparities in resource allocation. The letter highlights how the ultimate issue regarding funding tends to be whether or not it is provided to each school in the district so as to provide equal educational opportunities for all students. In identifying this issue, the letter outlines some solutions for how a district can address the issue themselves.

For a school district to prevent and remedy discrimination in the provision of educational resources and proactively work toward attaining this, the letter provides that the district should engage in periodic self-assessment of their policies and practices; work cooperatively with leaders, teachers, and support staff to end and eliminate discriminatory effects of such policies and practices; develop additional courses, programs, and extracurricular activities that were previously lacking; help to attract, develop, and retain strong teachers, leaders and support staff; and, where necessary, invest financial resources into technology, instructional materials, and facilities for the district.

Contact Nancy Krent with your Title VI discrimination issues.