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Discrimination at School

Discrimination in schools is a serious issue. Discrimination means treating someone unfairly because of a certain characteristic. Discrimination can be on the basis of one's race, gender, or disability. Discrimination on the basis of any protected characteristic is not allowed in education. The U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies have laws to prevent this. Despite this, some students still face challenges.

Most public schools are extensions of the government. This is because they're run by the states. These schools usually receive funding from the federal government. Discrimination can occur in admission and enrollment. It can be present in discipline, assignments, or financial aid. As long as private schools receive federal funding, they are not free to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.

This guide explains the different types of discrimination and how to get help.

Overview of Racial Discrimination in Education

Racial discrimination is when someone is treated in an unfair manner because of their race or national origin. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education that the segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. However, it would take further action to enforce this ruling. 

In 1957, the Arkansas governor ignored a federal court order to integrate the schools. He instead sent Arkansas National Guard troops to block black students from entering the school. In response, President Eisenhower federalized the National Guard. He sent more Army troops to protect the children attempting to enter the school.

The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 codified federal law. It created the federal prohibition against racial discrimination in public education. Title VI forbids discrimination on the basis of race. This applies to any education program which receives federal financial assistance. This means schools cannot exclude or treat students in a different manner because of where they come from. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) ensures schools follow this rule. 

Despite these laws, some students still face problems, like unequal educational opportunities.

Sex-Based Discrimination

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are forms of sexual discrimination. Sexual discrimination is not allowed under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 included sexual harassment. This was added after a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Title IX establishes that no one should be treated unfairly in an education program on the basis of sex. The U.S. Department of Education makes sure schools give students a safe place to learn.

It's important to know that this law also protects LGBTQ students. This law protects those who may face sex discrimination related to their gender identity or sexual orientation. Transgender students often face sex discrimination. This challenges these students' rights to a safe and inclusive educational environment.

If students face sex-based discrimination or sexual violence, they can talk to the Title IX Coordinator at their school. Most high schools and secondary schools have a Title IX Coordinator. This person is an official designated by educational institutions to ensure compliance with Title IX. This individual talks to complainants and handles their cases. They provide insight into education acts and the rights and responsibilities of schools.

Discrimination Against Students With Disabilities

Students with disabilities deserve the same educational opportunities as every other student. These students in special education programs sometimes face discrimination in schools. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is an important, relevant law. This law, along with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), work together. They ensure students get equal chances. These laws state that educational institutions cannot treat students with disabilities unfairly.

Under federal law, schools must provide equal educational opportunities to all students. Students with disabilities must receive special education services. The school also needs to make changes to ensure all students have equal access to high-quality education. For students with disabilities, this means giving accommodations like extra time on tests. Discrimination can also happen outside the classroom. In extracurricular activities, students with disabilities should have the same chances to join.

Addressing Discrimination in School

Facing discrimination is difficult, but there are steps students and families can take to address it. Some students may believe they are being treated unfairly because they belong to a protected class. These students should file a discrimination complaint. This formal complaint lets school officials know there's a problem that needs fixing.

The first step is often to talk to school officials. This can include teachers, counselors, principals, or the athletics department, if relevant. They have the responsibility under state law and federal law to ensure every student is treated fairly in all school programs.

To uphold the principles of non-discrimination, always document everything. Send any concerns or complaints to the right authorities. It's important to send a complaint in writing. This provides a tangible record of the concerns raised and ensures clarity in communication. Include details about the incident and your contact information. If the issue isn't resolved at the school level, the complaint can be taken to the school district or higher educational authorities.

Click on a link below to learn more about sexual harassment and discrimination in an educational setting.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

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