ALL STUDENTS SHOULD FEEL WELCOME & SAFE
Scroll down to find out how you can protect students’ right to learn.
Students have the federally-protected right
to an education free from discrimination and harassment.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects everyone participating in programs that receive federal funding from discrimination based on their race, color, or national origin.
This protection extends to all federally-financed programs, including both public and non-public schools, and is therefore under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice, and in education, is enforced by the Office for Civil Rights.
Schools, school districts, and state Departments of Education have the right to set their own local policies regarding bullying and discrimination,
This obligation includes things like:
- Creating a school climate that is safe for all students
- Providing resources and information for students and parents who have diverse requirements
- Taking immediate steps to repair disturbances in a student’s education
How to Use This Website
Save Your VI is a campaign to raise awareness of students’ Title VI rights. The people behind Save Your VI are a group of primarily mothers of color in Northern California who have personal experience with discrimination in their children’s schools and with the Title VI grievance process. During this journey we have found that most students, parents, and educators that we meet don’t know that schools are legally obligated to redress racial discrimination in students’ education, let alone that the federal office that enforces Title VI is under threat of elimination.
We’ve created this website as a guide and a resource for students, their caregivers, and school and school district employees.
For students, especially those who have experienced or witnessed racial or ethnic discrimination in their schools, we recommend the Student Toolkit. Students can play an active role in protecting their own civil rights, and the Student Toolkit explains how.
For parents and educators we recommend reading everything on the website, even the links. If you want to learn about grievance processes or take action right away, check out the Parent Toolkit. If you want to learn about the data and recommended courses of action for schools, check out the Educator Toolkit.
If you believe your school or school district is violating students’ Title VI rights, the most important thing you can do is document every interaction with the school in writing and make copies.
Federal Oversight and the Office for Civil Rights
As many of us know, school administration, school district leadership, and even the state can fail to adequately address racial or ethnic harassment, even according to its own policies. When all else fails, students’ Title VI rights in schools are enforced by the Department of Justice’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR has 12 branches in Washington D.C., Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle. They investigate civil rights violations including racial, gender, and disability discrimination. The OCR has jurisdiction over any school that receives federal financial assistance, whether public or non-public. (Read an article about the OCR’s history here.)
According to the OCR’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), which in 2013-2014 surveyed all public schools and school districts in the United States, racial inequity in education is a significant problem. For instance, Black students are disproportionately expelled from school and disciplined through law enforcement. Black and Latino students have less access to high-level math and science courses, as well as accelerated, gifted, and Advanced Placement programs. English learners and students of color are more likely to be held back in school. Black, Latino, and American Indian students are more likely to attend schools with higher concentrations of inexperienced teachers. (See more information from the CRDC here.)
In 2016, the OCR received 16,720 complaints, a 61% increase over the previous year’s complaints. The number of complaints the OCR receives has increased 188% over the last ten years, and harassment complaints based on race, color, and national origin have increased 17% since 2011. There has not been a commensurate increase in staff, however. At the end of 2016, the OCR’s staff was actually 11% below it’s level ten years ago, even though complaint volume has tripled in that span. The process for filing a complaint with the OCR is detailed in the Parent Toolkit on this website.
Discrimination in School
Discrimination against students that violates their Title VI rights can come in many forms. Regardless of what forms it takes, discrimination has measurable negative effects on students’ education and life outcomes. Click the boxes below to learn more about how discrimination happens in school.
It is important to note several things about Title VI violations:
- Discrimination can come from other students, but also teachers, administration, staff, or school resource officers (SROs).
- Students can be discriminated against at any age.
- Discrimination against students based on their religion can be considered a Title VI violation when their religion relates to their ethnic heritage.
- A school violates a student’s Title VI rights when it fails to appropriately remedy a hostile climate or inequity in treatment due to race, color, or national origin.
- You neither need to be the victim, nor their parent or legal guardian in order to file a Title VI complaint with the Office for Civil Rights on their behalf.
The Current Climate
The 2016 presidential election has seen a marked increase in reported racist incidents across the country, many of which have occurred in public schools. Buzzfeed recently released an analysis of ProPublica’s Documenting Hate project, in which 149 racial bullying incidents that can be linked to Donald Trump were reported between early October and late May. This is related to what the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calls “The Trump Effect,” a dramatic jump in hate violence and incidents of harassment and intimidation around the country surrounding Donald Trump’s campaign and election.
The largest number of incidents that the SPLC studied were reported in K-12 schools and on university campuses. According to the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance survey of over 10,000 educators, 90% of respondents said that the election had impacted their school’s climate negatively. 80% reported heightened anxiety among students worried for themselves or their families. And as the SPLC points out, the incidents that they have studied are only a fraction of the estimated 260,000 reported and unreported hate crimes that a 2013 government study estimated occur annually.
In addition to the jump in racist bullying and harassment, the Trump administration is actively undermining the protections guaranteed to students under federal law.
- In their proposed 2018 budget, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Trump intend to cut the OCR’s staff by 8%. This would change the caseload to 42 open civil rights investigations per employee.
- DeVos, in a Congressional budget hearing, claimed that discrimination in schools that receive federal funding is not her responsibility, a position that is not only heartless for a supposed educator, but also factually and legally incorrect.
- DeVos has instructed the Office for Civil Rights to scale back investigations into civil rights abuses.
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice, which oversees the Office for Civil rights, is easing off of the use of consent decrees, the most commonly used legal tool for the federal government to remediate civil rights violations. Without consent decrees, remediation wouldn’t require court oversight.
The Trump administration has proven itself a force multiplier for the damage already caused by racial harassment and discrimination in schools. Not only are they undermining educational equity and federal law, Trump’s own name and campaign slogans have become standards for racist bullying. In order to protect ourselves and our students from the destructive consequences of racism in education that already exist and are only exacerbated by this administration, we must all arm ourselves with our hard-won Title VI civil rights and fight back.
Whether you’re a student, a concerned adult, or an educator, you can help make our schools safe places to learn.
Save Your VI has developed these resource toolkits to help students, trusted adults, and school employees help themselves.
HARASSMENT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
You have a protected right to feel safe at school. It is the right of all students to be free from discrimination from others—other kids or adults—at school. If you are harassed at school, or if you see someone being harassed, follow the steps below.
What to do if you are harassed or if you see harassment at school:
Parents, Caregivers, & Trusted Adults
If you are ready to take action on behalf of a student who has been discriminated against, then prepare yourself with these resources.
What to Do if a Student is Harassed is a one-page info sheet for students and their advocates that can be printed and distributed at your school’s administrative office or school district office.
Addressing Racial Discrimination: Steps to Follow With Your School is a step-by-step guide to prepare yourself to use your school’s official complaint processes.
Why You Need an Advocate is a letter written in support of parents, and to encourage parents to seek out advocates as they navigate the official grievance process.
How to File a Complaint With OCR is an info sheet to inform you of the process for filing a complaint with the federal government.
Use these tools to acquaint yourself with the process of filing a complaint. Remedying racial harassment for a student in school can be a taxing and exhausting process. Some of the preparation you may require is to get yourself emotionally prepared to be an advocate. If filing a complaint is too difficult for you, or if it will put you in a vulnerable position, you don’t have to do it. At all times, do what’s best for you and the students order to stay safe.
Advocacy and Action
#SaveYourVI needs your help too.
We would like to gather data about schools, school districts, and colleges across the country, and their compliance with Title VI. In order to do that, we need your help. There are over 19,000 public schools alone in the United States, so we can’t look up information about every one of them.
We’re asking you to send us information about your school and school district. We’ll use this data to analyze how many schools and districts are in basic minimum compliance with Title VI, and to make school, district, and state grievance policies easily accessible to parents all over the country.
Click the button below and fill out the form to provide us with data about your schools.
School Administration, Faculty, & Staff
The Educator Toolkit links to information gathered and analyzed by the Department of Education (ED), the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
These federal agencies have gathered data at the national level, and the documents we’ve linked to use their data findings in relation to pertinent federal law to recommend courses of action for school administrations. These recommendations provide both the best educational outcomes for students, as well as the best legal outcomes for schools and school districts.
Beneath the guidance documents is a link to the CRDC’s database. With it, educators can look up the CRDC’s survey data from their schools and districts. Additionally, we’ve included a survey that educators can use to get a better understanding of the climate in their schools, which was adapted from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance survey, as well as a printable PDF guide about how educators can handle harassment in school.