On September 30, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced it had resolved a complaint of racial harassment filed against Peoria Unified School District in Arizona.
OCR determined that the district violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to address harassment of students on the basis of race, color, and national origin. Title VI requires schools and districts to promptly and effectively respond to reported harassment. An effective response would include taking steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, and remedy the effects.
In its letter to the district, OCR wrote that staff were aware of widespread racial harassment as well as particularly identified incidents of peer harassment and harassment by staff. OCR found that students, based on these protected classes, were subjected to a hostile environment and the harassment was ”sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it interfered with – or could have reasonably interfered with – their ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s program.”
The District agreed to implement a 15-page resolution agreement with 28 separate, detailed reporting requirements related to the following: remedies for impacted students, a school climate assessment, an anti-harassment statement, policy review and revisions, forms, recordkeeping, staff training, communications to parents, student educational programs, and audits for upcoming years.
These targeted resolutions agreements are not binding on schools or institutions other than to the signatories, but their content can include important takeaways or reminders. In particular, this agreement can serve as a checklist for staff who are reviewing policies, procedures, training, and recordkeeping practices. For schools that do not currently conduct climate assessments, Section III of the agreement may be of particular interest for those considering what to include in such a survey and how to use the data.
OCR’s letter to the District is here and the resolution agreement is here.