U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance on Obligations of Charter Schools to Comply with Federal Civil Rights Laws


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The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today released new guidance confirming that the same federal civil rights laws that apply to other public schools apply equally to public charter schools.

“Charter schools play an important role in the educational landscape and are serving more and more students all over the country,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “Since our last guidance on the topic in 2000, thousands of new charter schools have opened. This guidance underscores that charter schools must satisfy the requirements of the federal civil rights laws.”

The new guidance highlights critical subjects that have arisen in charter schools, including the schools’ obligations to avoid discrimination in admissions practices and the administration of discipline; to provide a free appropriate public education for students with disabilities; and to take affirmative steps to assist English learners. The guidance also points to other OCR publications regarding additional civil rights principles that are equally applicable to charter schools.

OCR’s mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights. The office enforces a number of federal civil rights laws that apply to charter schools, including laws that prohibit discrimination based on disability; race, color, or national origin; and sex. In addition to issuing general guidance documents like the one released today, OCR investigates complaints of civil rights violations and provides technical assistance to help educational institutions achieve voluntary compliance with their civil rights obligations. Additional information about OCR is available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html.