OCR Releases New Guidance on Title IV

May 07, 2024

Today, the Biden administration released new OCR guidance to help school leaders navigate what constitutes antisemitic discrimination of students and other Title VI violations.

The 20-page “Dear Colleague” letter outlines specific examples of how to apply Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. It includes incidents that could happen at protests, vandalism and harassment and also covers how schools should respond to these events to stay in compliance with the law.

Like other guidance documents, this guidance merely outlines the agency’s thinking of how it makes decisions to open investigations into Title VI complaints. The guidance states that OCR would likely open investigations into complaints of Jewish students reporting being spit at, called antisemitic slurs, having their Star of David jewelry or kippahs ripped off and seeing antisemitic graffiti on facilities where Jewish and Israel-related cultural events are held — especially if no action is taken by school officials to stop these incidents. Additionally, if a student were to be harassed for wearing a Hijab or classmates taunt them because of what they eat, their accents or their clothing, OCR could open an investigation into the complaint. The department also encouraged schools to follow up with students to ensure they are not harassed again, monitor incidents and provide individualized support.

The guidance also states that OCR may also apply a different treatment analysis to determine Title IV violations. For example, OCR states that  a school disciplining Somali Muslim students more harshly than their white classmates based on fears that such students present a greater safety concern or a teacher or professor giving Jewish students lower grades than non-Jewish students out of disdain for perceived stereotypical claims about Jewish students would warrant OCR investigations.