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Civil Rights FAQ

Why does career and technical education receive special civil rights attention?

Beginning in 1973, various civil rights advocacy groups, including the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP, sued the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now the Department of Education) on behalf of a plaintiff, alleging that the federal government was not enforcing the federal civil rights laws in education.

The Federal District Court of Washington, D.C. settled the case by issuing a consent decree in 1977 which required the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights to publish Guidelines for Eliminating Discrimination and Denial of Services on the Basis of Race, Color, National Origin, Sex and Handicap in Career and Technical Education Programs. Published in its final form in 1979, the Guidelines continue to remain in force.

The Guidelines require that each state assign a Methods of Administration Coordinator to implement a compliance program to prevent, identify and remedy discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, handicap in vocational education programs operated by recipients of federal financial assistance.

The reviews are intended to ensure that students have equity and access to career and technical education without regard to their race, color, national origin, sex, or disability. The civil rights compliance reviews are conducted to ensure that school districts and BOCES are in compliance with federal civil rights laws.

What federal civil rights laws are involved?

There are five major federal civil rights laws, and the Vocational Education Guidelines for Eliminating Discrimination and Denial of Services on the Basis of Race, Color, National Origin, Sec, and Disability, Federal Register, Vol. 44, No. 56, page 17165, issued March 21, 1979, which are used as part of the compliance review process. These laws and their federal regulations are:

  1. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin (34 CFR Part 100).
  2. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex (34 CFR Part 106).
  3. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability (34 CFR Part 104).
  4. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability (28 CFR Part 35, Title II of the ADA).
  5. Guidelines for Eliminating Discrimination and Denial of Services on the Basis of Race, Color, National Origin, Sex and Handicap in Vocational Educational Programs (34 CFR Part 100, Appendix B).
What are the required parts of the civil rights compliance review?

SED is required to conduct annual civil rights compliance reviews of a subset of eligible school districts/BOCES using CTE-specific sources of data including enrollment data, Perkins applications, and program re-approval applications, as well as other information (e.g., ESSA, DASA, and SSEC reports) to identify areas of possible non-compliance. 

Civil rights compliance reviews consist of some or all or of the following components: desk audits, interviews, surveys, and technical assistance.

After the review is complete a report called letter of findings (LOF) and attachment of findings (AOF) identifying areas of non-compliance is sent to the LEA or BOCES within 60 days of the completion of the civil rights compliance review.

School officials develop a compliance plan to remedy violations and submit it to SED within 90 days of receipt of the LOF and AOF. As implementation of the compliance plan progresses, SED monitors school districts for completion of each action step and collects documentation to show when findings have been resolved. SED will provide technical assistance to help resolve civil rights compliance issues.

How are compliance reviews conducted?

SED staff conduct compliance reviews annually, based on data, need, or as a result of civil rights complaints. SED will notify LEAs and BOCES if they have been selected for a civil rights compliance review. The MOA coordinator will contact the LEA and BOCES to request specific materials and schedule the review and develop an agenda if applicable.

Compliance reviews consist of an analysis of documentation supplied by the district or BOCES, interviews, surveys, and technical assistance. Requested documents must be submitted to SED at least three weeks prior to the scheduled review.  

The findings are documented in a letter of findings (LOF) and attachment of findings (AOF) which is usually sent to the district or BOCES within 60 days of the visit. The response to the findings, a voluntary compliance plan (VCP) should be submitted to SED within 90 days of the receipt of the letter of findings.

Compliance plans must detail how the school will correct the findings.  After SED approves a compliance plan, technical assistance will be available to implement the plan.  SED will monitor the district/BOCES until all plan activities have been completed. Documentation and evidence that action steps have been completed will be required. All findings should be brought into compliance within two years of the review.

How can a district obtain technical assistance?

District and/or BOCES staff may contact SED to request:

  • information about its civil rights responsibilities;
  • help in developing and/or implementing a voluntary compliance plan;
  • assistance in improving compliance with the civil rights laws and regulations, or enhancing its access and equity activities, or;
  • assistance in resolving civil rights complaints.
What penalties are imposed if a district doesn’t comply?

Subrecipients that are out of compliance with civil rights law but are in good standing with the timely completion of activities in the civil rights process as defined in the civil rights guidance on the NYSED’s web page are not subject to sanctions. The following state actions shall be taken if a subrecipient is out of compliance with the civil rights process, including failure to submit required documentation per the guidelines published on  the NYSED CTE civil rights web page or failure to submit evidence per the agreed-upon actions in the voluntary compliance plan:

  1. Hold on Perkins funding—Documentation or evidence is missing or more than 30 days late. Perkins funds will be placed on hold for disbursement until the subrecipient is in compliance with the requests found in the initial and subsequent civil rights review request for information.
  2. Hold on career-technical education program approvals and renewals—Documentation or evidence is missing or more than 60 days late. New CTE program approval and re-approval of existing programming shall not occur until the subrecipient is actively working on completing their compliance plan.
  3. Referral to the Office of Civil Rights, United States Department of Education—Documentation or evidence is missing or more than 120 days late. The hold on Perkins funding (1) and career-technical education new CTE program approvals and re-approvals (2) will remain in effect until the subrecipient is in compliance. In addition, the Office of Civil Rights will be notified regarding the subrecipient’s noncompliance with the civil rights process.

The SED must inform the federal Office for Civil Rights of all instances of a district’s unwillingness to comply, (e.g., refusal to provide all relevant information to the SED in order to conduct a compliance review, refusal to participate in the compliance review, not submitting an approved compliance plan, or not correcting violations).

The Federal Office of Civil Rights will conduct its own investigation based on information supplied by the SED. As a result of its investigation, it may seek voluntary corrective action or recommend that the Secretary of Education withhold all federal financial assistance from the district/BOCES.