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

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

January 13, 2021

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released its Annual Report to the Secretary, the President, and the Congress for fiscal year 2020. The Annual Report summarizes enforcement achievements and policy priorities for FY 2020 and highlights the significant progress made over the course of the past four years of the Trump Administration (2017-2020) in strengthening civil rights enforcement.

OCR achieved historic results under former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who made aggressive enforcement of students' civil rights a top priority. Over the last four years, OCR has resolved significantly more complaints with change than the previous administration resolved during both its terms. Notable achievements from FYs 2017-2020 include the following:

  • Received a total of 44,979 complaints but resolved a total of 52,700 complaints, over 15,000 more complaints than the previous administration resolved during its last four years, while simultaneously making headway on the substantial backlog of more than 10,000 complaints left by the previous administration.
  • Resolved 6,018 complaints with change, over 1,500 more complaints resolved with change than the previous administration achieved during its last four years in office.
  • Initiated an unprecedented number of proactive investigations, with 748 proactive investigations initiated, more than three times the number initiated by the previous administration.
  • Resolved 413 proactive investigations, with more than 310 of those resolutions achieved in FY 2020 alone, representing 276 more proactive investigation resolutions than the previous administration achieved in all eight years combined.

In FY 2020, OCR continued to drastically outpace the complaint investigation and case resolution rate of the previous administration while reducing the unconscionable backlog of civil rights complaints inherited from that administration. OCR's work brought about timely and meaningful change at thousands of schools. As a result, FY 2020 was the fourth consecutive fiscal year in which the number of case resolutions outpaced the number of complaints received.

As former Secretary DeVos previously stated, "In the last fiscal year, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights built upon the Trump Administration's previous successes in strengthening civil rights enforcement, and alleviating unnecessary, outdated, or ineffective regulatory burdens. In FY 2020, OCR launched its third nationwide compliance initiative in three years and issued its historic Title IX regulation to both protect victims of sexual assault and ensure the due process rights of all students on campus. OCR's many accomplishments in both 2020 and previous years have cemented this Administration's legacy as one of tireless and consistent advocacy for America's students and their families."

Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kimberly M. Richey added, "I am proud of the progress we have made in ensuring that the civil rights of the nation's students are vigorously enforced and that past barriers to case resolution have been significantly removed. Our Annual Report demonstrates that OCR has not only operated more efficiently under the Trump Administration but has also achieved better results overall. Because of our work in reorienting OCR toward its original design as an impartial law enforcement entity and away from activist interpretations of longstanding federal laws, we achieved historic complaint resolution rates, increased compliance in schools, and saw long-overdue policy changes geared toward ensuring the civil rights of all of America's students are protected, no matter their age, sex, race, national origin, or ability. I'm immensely proud of the hard work of our dedicated staff."

In this year's report, OCR highlights how it has continued to build upon those achievements while simultaneously achieving several new and significant milestones, including:

  • Resolving 10,185 complaints, with more than 2,000 of these resolutions requiring the school to make substantive changes to better protect their students' civil rights – totals which significantly outpaced those of previous administrations.
  • Resolving a directed investigation requiring the University of Southern California to make sweeping reforms to the way it addresses sexual harassment in light of its mishandling of sexual misconduct by Dr. George Tyndall.
  • Completing one of its largest comprehensive compliance reviews ever into systemic sexual assault problems at Pennsylvania State University, requiring the University to significantly revise its handling of reports of sexual harassment in light of its treatments of complaints against Coach Jerry Sandusky.
  • Announcing the Department's new Title IX Final Rule, a historic effort to strengthen Title IX protections for survivors of sexual harassment, while restoring due process in campus proceedings.
  • Including new questions in OCR's biennial Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) designed to identify incidents of sexual misconduct perpetrated by school staff or personnel, the first universal data collection to systematically gather teacher-on-student sexual misconduct data by school district.
  • Announcing a new Title IX initiative aimed at combatting sexual violence in at the elementary and secondary levels after recognizing a 208% increase in sexual violence complaints at the K-12 level between FY 2010 and FY 2019. This came on the heels of OCR's FY 2019 investigation into Chicago Public Schools, which revealed a disturbing pattern of student-on-student and staff-on-student sexual violence.
  • Establishing a new Outreach, Prevention, Education, and Non-discrimination (OPEN) Center, focused on strengthening proactive civil rights compliance through technical assistance.

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 judgment of the Assistant Secretary, adequate progress is not being made." 20 U.S.C. § 3413(b)(1). Each of OCR's Annual Reports since FY 1990 are made publicly available on OCR's website here.