Thursday, November 29, 2012

OCR's Quadrennial Report, and Ali's Last Day

Yesterday the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights held a conference call to roll out a new report summarizing its enforcement and policymaking efforts since 2009.  Federal law requires the agency to produce a report like this every four years, covering all of its enforcement areas including but not limited to Title IX.  The report does not contain any big news or surprises on the Title IX front, but the conference call did: tomorrow is Assistant Secretary Russlynn Ali's last day on the job.  The Obama administration has not announced a replacement for the OCR chief.

Here's an excerpt from the report, which I thought was interesting.  It's a chart of Title IX complaints, broken down by topic, and showing the total number of times a complaint addressed one of those topics.  Athletics received the most complaints, over 1200, but sexual harassment/sexual violence was a close second with 1137 [that must be a typo in the chart, because racial harassment was discussed in another section]. Beyond those two big and well-known categories, sex discrimination is also alleged in a wide variety of topics from admissions, other forms of differential treatment, employment issues, financial aid, grading, pregnancy, retaliation, and other. 

In addition to the complaints it received, the agency also initiated 37 proactive compliance reviews, 11 of which related to sexual violence and 17 of which related to athletics.

The report is useful as a barometer of what Title IX issues are still relevant and in what proportions.  But other than the information about proactive compliance reviews,  there's not a lot of useful data about enforcement.  For example, of those 1264 athletics claims -- how many did OCR investigate?  How many compliance orders or resolution agreements?  Because we know that hundreds of athletics claims -- the mass complaints filed against school districts in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California -- were effectively dismissed without investigation, we can guess that the "percent of claims investigated" figure would have been rather low.  I'd have been curious to compare that to similar enforcement data for other types of claims.