New Department of Education Guidance on Racial Inclusiveness

In response to a recent increase of complaints, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a Dear Colleague Letter clarifying the circumstances under which schools may — consistent with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations — develop curricula and programs or engage in activities that promote racially inclusive schools.

Title VI provides: “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

This resource includes hypothetical examples to help schools assess their legal obligations and protections concerning school-sponsored curricula and programming.  It also outlines situations under which schools may be in violation of Title VI, such as when they separate students based on race, treat individuals or groups differently based on race, or create, encourage, accept, tolerate, or fail to correct a racially hostile educational environment.

Additionally, it underscores that Title VI generally does not restrict schools from holding assemblies, meetings, focus groups, or listening sessions relating to students’ experiences with race in their school or community or recognizing or sponsoring groups or programs with a special emphasis on race that are open to all students.  The letter follows the release of a January 2023 OCR fact sheet confirming that diversity, equity, and inclusion training and similar activities are consistent with Title VI.

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