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OCR Issues Guidance on Equal Access to Student Resources
By Jennifer MacLennan, Attorney, Gust Rosenfeld P.L.C.

The United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued extensive guidance last week on the topic of equitable distribution of resources to students. Under its authority to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, OCR issued a thirty-seven page "Dear Colleague" letter that outlines its position on equal access of students to educational resources. In the letter, OCR states that school districts are responsible for ensuring that both funding and existing resources are distributed equitably among student populations without regard to race, color or national origin. In considering whether resources are distributed equitably, OCR will look at federal monies, as well as other funding sources, such as those garnered through private fundraising. Equitable distribution of resources, according to the OCR, includes equal access to rigorous academic programs, effective teaching, modern technology and adequate facilities. The letter states, "Equal educational opportunity requires that all students, regardless of race, color, or national origin, have comparable access to the diverse range of courses, programs, and extracurricular activities offered in our Nation's schools."

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has expressed concern regarding the expansive view of the regulatory authority. NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. noted that this "ultimately puts OCR in the position of being able to dictate to a school district what education instrument or approach is comparably effective, a job that is squarely within the purview of school districts and not OCR or the federal government. OCR will always be able to force its position by declaring an alternative educational approach could have resulted in a less discriminatory impact."

Gust Rosenfeld's education attorneys have experience representing Arizona school districts and the state in student equity cases in federal and state courts and have negotiated with OCR on behalf of clients on related issues.

Please click on the following links to view a fact sheet published by OCR and the Dear Colleague letter. OCR Fact Sheet and Dear Colleague Letter

Please contact any of the attorneys listed below with any questions:

Robert D. Haws - 602.257.7976 - rhaws@gustlaw.com
Jennifer N. MacLennan - 602.257.7475 - maclennan@gustlaw.com
Susan Plimpton Segal - 602.257.7425 - spsegal@gustlaw.com
Shelby M. Exposito - 602.257.7498 - sExposito@gustlaw.com

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