Friday, February 4, 2011

Do You Want To File A Discrimination Complaint Against Your School?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Have you ever felt that you or the student in your life were treated differently by a school due to race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or age?  You could be experiencing illegal discrimination.

For example, has your child been excluded from activities, such as a class trip, based on disability-related conduct (e.g. hyperactivity, seizures, hearing impairment, behavior, etc.)?  Have students who were different  races been treated differently in the exact same situation for no apparent reason?  Have staff made some form of slur against you or your child based on race or national origin?  Were you removed from a college program in part due to your age?  Believe it or not, improper discriminatory conduct occurs even today.

If you experienced discrimination, or what you believe was discrimination, within the last 180 days, you can file a complaint with the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR).  This is a great agency which, if they accept your complaint, will step in, investigate, and hopefully help to resolve the problem.

Here is where you need to go if you wish to file the complaint yourself:

Here is some information from the U.S. Department of Education which is relevant to filing a discrimination complaint: and

If you are beyond 180 days, you may still be able to file, but will have to justify the lateness of the filing to OCR.

More parents might want to consider filing if they cannot get anywhere internally with their district.  As you have to show the discrimination in your initial complaint for OCR to step in, oftentimes attorneys may be involved to make the case.  You can also file on your own,.  There is no charge to file the complaint with OCR.

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page []. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.


  1. Hi Michelle,
    Your information about discrimination complaints in schools has been very helpful to me and has given me another perspective and hope that I can do something about it. My daughter is in 3rd grade and she has been discriminated for 3 years already. I have confronted the school staff all the time, but it is always my daughters' word against them. I really don't know if I should file a complaint and they are going to take it seriously because she's only 8 y.o.?
    Thank you.

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