Report: Complaints to OCR Have Doubled Since 2005
Despite the increase, staffing at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has decreased by 15 percent in the past decade.
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The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released its fiscal year 2015 annual report on May 4, highlighting its activities as well as trends relating to the number of complaints being filed with the agency. OCR’s overall complaint volume has nearly doubled in the past decade but its staffing level was at an all-time low last year, having decreased by 15 percent since 2005. Some of the areas that have seen a rise in complaints include sexual violence; harassment based on race, color or national origin; and restraint or seclusion of students with disabilities.
Below are the breakouts for each of these categories:
- Complaints of sexual violence at the postsecondary level have increased dramatically over the past seven years from 11 in 2009 to 164 in 2015. At the elementary and secondary school level, OCR received 65 complaints in 2015, which is more than double the previous highest number of complaints received in a year (31) in 2013.
- Over the last four years, racial harassment complaints at the elementary and secondary education level have averaged 347 per year, compared to the previous 10 years when the average number of those complaints were 210 per year.
- Since 2011, OCR has experienced an increase in the number of complaints received involving inappropriate restraint or seclusion of students with disabilities. Last year saw the highest number of such complaints – 76 – an increase of 58 percent from 2014 (48).
Last year, Campus Safety reported that the average time a Title IX investigation takes OCR has increased to more than four years, and OCR’s limited staffing as highlighted in its newest report may be one of the main reasons for this. In April, 22 senators urged lawmakers to increase funding for OCR.
Despite of the increase in complaints to OCR, the latest National Center for Education Statistics report on school crime shows declines in violent crime, bullying and harassment because of sexual orientation. On college campuses, however, the number of sexual assaults more than doubled from 2001 to 2013, although the increase may be due to more victims reporting these crimes.