U.S. Department Of Education Releases Fact Sheet Clarifying How Civil Rights Laws Apply To Diversity And Inclusion Activities

CATEGORY: Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Public Education
DATE: Feb 21, 2023

On January 31, 2023, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a new fact sheet clarifying that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not categorically prohibit schools from offering activities intended to further objectives such as diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. OCR provided the fact sheet to assist school communities and postsecondary educational institutions in understanding that diversity, equity, and inclusion training and similar activities in most circumstances are consistent with Title VI.

Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. A school or community college district violates Title VI if it intentionally treats individuals differently or otherwise causes them harm because of their race, or if it creates or is responsible for a racially hostile environment. However, the OCR clarifies that activities intended to further objectives such as diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion are not categorically prohibited under Title VI. In determining whether an activity or program results in prohibited Title VI discrimination, the OCR looks at the “totality of the circumstances” in each particular case. For example, Title VI does not categorically prohibit activities such as DEI training; training on the impact of racism; cultural competency training; school climate surveys; or programs focused on anti-harassment or anti-bullying.

The fact sheet notes that Congress has found it is in the best interest of the United States to support public schools and districts “that are voluntarily seeking to foster meaningful interaction among students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, beginning at the earliest stage of such students’ education.  Additionally, President Biden has stated that “diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility benefit the Nation” and that “our diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths.”

A link to the OCR fact sheet is accessible at: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USED/bulletins/346086f.

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