Like many administrative systems in the U.S., Title IX is a confusing law that utilizes a confusing enforcement mechanism that involves numerous different agencies and other organizations. Not the least confusing aspect of the apparatus is the Office for Civil Rights, or OCR.
Understanding how the OCR fits into the picture is essential for seeing how the whole system is supposed to work.
The Big Title IX Picture: The Department of Education
To understand Title IX and the OCR's place in enforcing it, it is helpful to go all the way back to high school civics class.
There are three branches of government in the U.S. federal system:
- The legislative branch, which makes the laws – this is Congress
- The executive branch, which enforces the laws – this is headed by the President
- The judicial branch, which interprets the laws – this is the court system
Many people are thrown off by the fact that the Department of Education is a part of the executive branch. It does not create any laws. Rather, it is tasked with enforcing the laws and managing the programs that have been passed and created by Congress and that deal with education.
The Department of Education includes several smaller offices. One of those is the OCR.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
The OCR is headquartered in Washington, D.C., but has 12 regional offices throughout the United States, including one right here in downtown Philadelphia. Across the country, more than 500 attorneys work at the Department of Education's OCR, making it one of the largest civil rights agencies in the federal government.
All of those lawyers at the OCR are responsible for making sure that the non-discriminatory laws that have been passed by Congress are enforced in the higher education setting. These laws include:
- Title IX's prohibition against sexual discrimination
- Title VI's prohibition against racial discrimination
- The Age Discrimination Act
- The Americans with Disabilities Act
In spite of having so many lawyers on hand, the OCR is very short-staffed and cannot get involved in every case. Instead, it relies on aggrieved parties to file a complaint of discrimination with the OCR. If they do not reach out to the OCR, it is unlikely that the agency will even hear of their case.
Joseph D. Lento: Title IX and OCR Complaint Attorney
Contrary to popular belief, these OCR complaints are not strictly of use to people who are claiming that they were sexually harassed or assaulted on campus. They can also be used by students who have been accused of sexual misconduct, as well. Getting the OCR to review your case of alleged sexual misconduct can force your school to take your due process rights seriously, rather than ignore them in the school's scramble to find you in violation of their code of conduct and protect its federal funding.
Joseph D. Lento can help. As a national Title IX advisor and OCR complaint attorney, he can guide you through the shockingly complex enforcement structure of a sexual misconduct allegation. Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686.