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Claim Your Rights

#ClaimYourRights map of Office for Civil Rights locations

In response to the rescinded Title IX guidance and DeVos' promise to support LGBTQ students, GLSEN and PFLAG are relaunching our #ClaimYourRights campaign to assist trans and LGB youth in filing complaints with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Education. This campaign began in 2009 as we first launched the partnership with OCR that eventually led to the guidance, to clarify what schools must do, based on years of investigation, advocacy and evidence on the ground. Let's call her on this promise and make sure she knows how badly OCR is needed. Please help spread the word that all trans students and their families should #ClaimYourRights.

Importantly, ANYONE with knowledge of discrimination in a school has the standing to file a claim with OCR. Follow the directions on this one-page Claim Your Rights document. 

HOW TO REPORT DISCRIMINATION

If you have experienced discrimination in school because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, you’re not alone. According to GLSEN research, 66% of LGBTQ students report experiencing anti-LGBTQ discrimination at school. Unfortunately, only 13 states have laws that fully protect LGBTQ students from discrimination. It’s clear that many school communities are in desperate need for a way to address this issue.

So what can we do to protect the rights of LGBTQ students in our school communities? You can start by downloading the Claim Your Rights Fact Sheet.

Distribute copies at protests. Provide them to LGBTQ youth, youth groups, community centers, and schools. Give a copy to your school administrators.

What Should I Know About Filing a Report?

There are a few important things to know about filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education:

  • You are entitled to file a bullying, harassment, or discrimination claim with the OCR.
  • A complaint must be filed within 180 days of when the discrimination or bullying and harassment occurred.
  • Your confidentiality is assured. Every claim remains confidential and will not be shared without permission.
  • The person making the complaint doesn’t have to be the one who experienced the bullying, harassment, or discrimination. A third party (friend, family member or school faculty) can file the complaint.
  • It’s safe. The school cannot retaliate against anyone who has made a complaint, or testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation or proceeding under Title IX.
  • You must fill out the entire form since your claim will be delayed or dismissed if it’s incomplete.

What is Title IX, and how is it Relevant?

Nearly every public school that receives federal funding is protected under Title IX. Title IX prohibits harassment directed at an LGBTQ student that is sexual in nature, and also prohibits gender-based harassment, including protections for gender expansive students who don’t conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity. However, Title IX does not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, so it's important to report "sex" as one of the bases for discrimination. Learn more about Title IX.

What is the Office for Civil Rights?

The Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education enforces Title IX. If you have been or you know of someone who is the victim of bullying, harassment, or discrimination in school you should file a complaint with the OCR. Learn more about the Department of Education.

Why is My Report Important?

We can’t fix what we don’t know. Your report helps us measure, and combat, anti-LGBT bullying, harassment, and discrimination. It helps us make our nation’s schools safer spaces for everyone.

What Should an Office for Civil Rights Complaint Include?

The Office for Civil Rights investigates Title IX claims of bullying, harassment, or discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sex, race, color, religion, national origin or disability. Not, it bears repeating, on the basis of sexual orientation. That means that your complaint will need to address the intersection between discrimination based on sexual orientation/gender identity and the classes protected under Title IX: the perception that a student is too masculine or too feminine, or doesn’t conform to stereotypes based on how they dress, their mannerisms, their speech patterns, or their choice of extracurricular activities. Reports can be filed online at http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html, or you can fill out this form and send it into the Office of Civil Rights by mail, fax, or email.

I Filed a Report. What Next?

When the Office for Civil Rights finds that bullying, harassment, or discrimination has occurred, they work with the school to develop a voluntary agreement that requires the school to take steps to restore a nondiscriminatory environment. Those steps include, but are not limited to:

  • Informing schools of their obligation to provide a nondiscriminatory environment
  • Helping schools adopt effective anti-bullying policies, and staff and student training to address the incidents in question
  • Issuing guidance calculated to stop bullying, harassment, or discrimination when it occurs and prevent recurrence
  • Enforcing compliance in cases raising sexual harassment issues
  • Providing technical assistance in tandem with state and local education and law enforcement agencies, as well as students and their parents, to help educational institutions improve their anti-bullying policies and procedures

In the unlikely event that a voluntary resolution is not obtained, Office for Civil Rights may suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue to administer federal funding to the school, or may refer the case to the Department of Justice, which can in turn take legal action on your behalf to determine and enforce your legal rights.

What if I Need More Help?

Contact Diego Sanchez, Director of Policy at PFLAG National

Phone: (202) 467-8180 ext. 221
Email: dsanchez@pflag.org

Contact Nathan Smith, Director of Public Policy, GLSEN
Phone: (202) 621-5815
Email: nathan.smith@glsen.org