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U.S. Dept. Of Education Office For Civil Rights Revises Case Processing Manual
The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a revised Case Processing Manual (CPM), which was last updated in August 2020. The revised CPM “provides OCR with the procedures to promptly and effectively investigate and resolve complaints, compliance reviews, and directed investigations to ensure compliance with the civil rights laws OCR enforces.” The latest changes, which went into effect on July 18, 2022, including how OCR will evaluate, investigate, and resolve complaints. Although not an exhaustive list, some of the key changes include the following:
- The revised CPM clarifies that the following are not complaints: oral allegations that are not reduced to writing; anonymous correspondence; courtesy copies of correspondence or a complaint filed with or otherwise submitted to another person or other entity; inquiries that seek advice or information but do not seek action or intervention from the Department.
- The revised CPM clarifies that OCR may investigate Title IX complaints filed by employees, students, parents, and applicants.
- Specifies that the release of information by OCR to the public is subject to restrictions imposed by the Freedom of Information Act.
- Under the previous CPM, a case could be dismissed if OCR obtained credible evidence that a matter had been resolved. Under the revised CPM, OCR will only dismiss cases under certain circumstances if there are no systemic issues.
- Rather than make dismissals automatic or mandatory, OCR “generally” or “may” close or dismiss an allegation when certain circumstances exist. This suggests that OCR will exercise more discretion in determining whether to close or dismiss an allegation, which could possibly result in more investigations.
- Unlike the previous CPM, appeals for certain determinations and dismissals, which the previous CPM permitted for complainants only, are no longer provided for in the revised CPM.
OCR’s revised CPM may impact current and future investigations conducted by OCR. Districts with existing civil rights complaints that are under investigation by OCR should contact legal counsel for information regarding these new revisions.