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United States Report on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
  Initial Country Report (Sept, 2000). 

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Vernellia R. Randall
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 Education and Training. Racial segregation in education has been illegal in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 483 (1954). As a result of that decision, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Swann v. Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1 (1971), schools became increasingly integrated. Subsequently enacted statutes provide additional protections. Many enforcement actions have been brought by the government. The Department of Justice has brought more than 200 cases involving more than 500 school districts that practiced de jure discrimination. The U.S. Department of Education administers a number of significant laws and programs many of which are replicated at the state and local level. In their totality, these measures create a legal and policy framework aimed at the elimination of race-based disparities in educational quality and opportunity. Today, the American public educational system is open and accessible to all, regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status, or socio-economic status.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) within the U.S. Department of Education (Department) bears the primary federal responsibility for eliminating barriers to equal educational opportunity. This office enforces a number of laws prohibiting discrimination in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

OCR's statutory enforcement responsibility includes Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), and its implementing regulation at 34 C.F.R. Part 100 and 101, which prohibit race, color, and national origin discrimination. This statutory and regulatory framework affects virtually the entire scope of education in the United States, as nearly all education institutions in the nation -- from elementary through graduate or professional schools -- receive federal financial assistance. OCR monitors the activities, practices and policies of:

nearly 15,000 public school districts;

more than 3,600 colleges and universities;

approximately 5,000 proprietary organizations, such as training schools for truck drivers and cosmetologists; and

thousands of public libraries, museums and vocational rehabilitation agencies. Currently, OCR is responsible for the civil rights provisions for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (Title V, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act). OCR conducts a pre-grant review of magnet school applications to determine whether the school district has an eligible desegregation plan or voluntary plan to eliminate, prevent, or reduce minority group isolation. OCR provides civil rights technical assistance to these school districts.

During its early years, OCR focused on school districts and colleges that were operating openly segregated education systems. OCR's work has evolved from an initial focus on monitoring and enforcing desegregation plans to the more complex and subtle issues of ensuring students and student applicants equal access to programs and services.

Twelve field offices throughout the country conduct OCR's enforcement work. The headquarters office issues policy in response to emerging issues or when there is new legislation, referenda, or court decisions. Policy guidance is shared broadly to help educators meet their civil rights obligations. OCR executes its civil rights compliance responsibilities through a number of activities, including complaint investigations, compliance reviews and technical assistance.

A large share of OCR's work is devoted to investigating civil rights complaints filed by students, parents and others. OCR has incorporated non-adversarial dispute resolution techniques into the case resolution process. For example, OCR can act as a neutral third party, mediating between the student or parent and the school or college to enable them to arrive at an agreement on how to resolve the issues in a complaint. Or, OCR can negotiate with the recipient, becoming a party to the resolution agreement resulting from investigating the allegations raised in the complaint. Often, OCR uses a combination of these techniques to achieve case resolution. In some instances, OCR reaches the determination that there is insufficient evidence to support a finding of a civil rights violation. It is only when all other methods fail that OCR moves to formal administrative or judicial enforcement.

In addition to responding to complaints, OCR initiates and conducts reviews to determine compliance with the nation's civil rights laws. School districts or local and state education agencies are targeted using information from contemporary sources. Education and civil rights groups, community organizations, parents and the media all contribute to the variety of information used in OCR's identification process. OCR also relies on statistical data from sources such as the Elementary and Secondary School Civil Rights Compliance Report, which it administers.

Eliminating discrimination includes the prevention of discrimination. OCR provides technical assistance to schools and colleges, as well as to community, student and parent groups. The aid that OCR gives to education institutions helps them comply with federal civil rights requirements, while the assistance given to students and others informs them of their rights under the law regarding equal access to educational opportunity.

One example of the timely assistance given by OCR to school districts and state education agencies is the work of OCR's San Francisco office. California's Proposition 227, which passed in June 1998, requires school districts to redesign their education programs for the state's 1.4 million English language learners. Before the start of the new school year, districts had to develop new curricula, obtain new teaching material, revise student and teacher assignments, and educate teachers and parents about new state requirements. OCR assisted California districts by working with the state education agency to offer a series of workshops at school districts and county offices of education focusing on federal law in the context of the new state law.

In addition to the work of OCR and other federal agencies, the current Administration has instituted and expanded an array of programs to widen college opportunities for students of modest means -- a group disproportionately composed of racial and ethnic minorities.

Nonetheless, in the area of education, there continues to be a mixed record of recent gains and persistent inequalities. It is noteworthy, however, that inequalities have narrowed. Among the population 25 years and over in 1998, the proportion of Whites with a high school diploma (84 percent) was higher than for Blacks (76 percent) or for Hispanics (56 percent), but not significantly different from the figure for Asians and Pacific Islanders (85 percent). In 1980, there was a larger differential in the proportions who had completed high school for Whites (69 percent) and Blacks (51 percent) than in 1998.

In 1998, 25 percent of the White population 25 years and over had completed college (Bachelor's degree or higher). The corresponding proportions were 15 percent for Blacks, 42 percent for Asian and Pacific Islanders, and 11 percent for Hispanics.

On average, Hispanics are likely to have much lower levels of educational achievement than Whites or Blacks. For Hispanics generally, the figures for 1999 indicate that 61.6 percent of the population, 25 to 29, had completed at least high school. Those from Central and South America were more likely to have achieved that educational level (62.9 percent) than Mexican Americans (46.2 percent) or Puerto Ricans (59.8 percent), with Cubans at about the same level (62.1 percent).

According to the 1990 decennial census, the proportion of American Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts 25 years and over who were high school graduates was 66 percent. Corresponding figures from the 1990 census were 78 percent for Whites, 63 percent for Blacks, 78 percent for Asians and Pacific Islanders, and 50 percent for Hispanics.

For the proportions who had completed college, the 1990 census shows 9 percent for American Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts; 22 percent for Whites; 11 percent for Blacks; 37 percent for Asians and Pacific Islanders; and 9 percent for Hispanics.

Bilingual education. The current Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act responds to the needs of students for whom English is a second language. Section 7102(a)(15) includes among the underlying congressional findings the following: "[T]he Federal government, as exemplified by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 204(f) of the Equal Education Opportunities Act of 1974, has a special and continuing obligation to ensure that States and local school districts take appropriate action to provide equal educational opportunities to children and youth of limited English proficiency." Further, in Section 7102(b), the Congress declares it to be the policy of the United States "to assist State and local educational agencies, institutions of higher education and community-based organizations to build their capacities to establish, implement and sustain programs of instruction for children and youth of limited English proficiency." To implement this policy, Title VII provides for assistance for, among other things, bilingual education capacity and demonstration grants and research, evaluation, and dissemination.

In 1974, Congress established the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs to help school districts through funding and providing technical assistance to meet their responsibility to provide equal education opportunity to limited-English proficient children. A subsequent Supreme Court ruling, Plyler v. Doe, established that states cannot deny an equal public education to undocumented immigrant children. Amendments to Title VII since its initial passage have expanded eligibility to students who are limited-English proficient; emphasized the transitional nature of native language instruction; reinforced professional development; supplied additional funds for immigrant education; and provided for research and evaluation at the state and local level.

Today, 2.8 million elementary and secondary students, speaking over 150 languages, are identified as limited-English proficient. Among the several components that make up the Clinton Administration's Hispanic Education Action Plan are bilingual, immigrant, and migrant education programs targeting elementary and secondary students, as well as sustained mentoring and college assistance programs. In addition, the Administration has proposed expansion of an adult education "English as a Second Language Civics" program to assist immigrants in learning English, navigating public institutions, and being involved in their communities.

 

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Thanks to Derrick Bell and his pioneer work: 
Race, Racism and American Law
(1993).