If you have experienced bullying, harassment, or discrimination in school because of sexual orientation or gender identity, you’re not alone. According to GLSEN, approximately 85% of high school students report being harassed in school because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and 64% of students report being harassed for being too masculine or too feminine.

State protections are sorely lacking, and only 18% of LGBTQ students report that their schools have policies which offer comprehensive protections. It’s clear that many school communities are in desperate need for a way to address bullying, harassment and discrimination of LGBTQ students.

So what can we do to protect the rights of LGBTQ students in our school communities? We can take action to ensure that reports are being collected to make the case for laws and policies that will address this issue, but we need your help. You can start by downloading the Claim Your Rights Fact Sheet for your youth group or school. Give a copy to your school administrators.

Common Questions

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 (OCR) 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.

Are there OCR offices near me?

The Office for Civil Rights has field offices in 12 states across the country. You can contact them--or the main office--as follows:

OFFICE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Headquarters
400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202-1100
Customer Service Hotline #: (800) 421-3481 | Facsimile: (202) 453-6012
TTY#: (800) 877-8339 | Email: OCR@ed.gov |Web: http://www.ed.gov/ocr

 

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
Office for Civil Rights,
Boston Office
U.S. Department of Education
8th Floor
5 Post Office Square
Boston, MA 02109-3921
Telephone: (617) 289-0111
Facsimile: (617) 289-0150
Email: OCR.Boston@ed.gov

  Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin
Office for Civil Rights,
Chicago Office
U.S. Department of Education
Citigroup Center
500 W. Madison Street,
Suite 1475
Chicago, IL 60661-4544
Telephone: (312) 730-1560
Facsimile: (312) 730-1576
Email: OCR.Chicago@ed.gov
New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
Office for Civil Rights,
New York Office
U. S. Department of Education
32 Old Slip, 26th Floor
New York, NY 10005-2500
Telephone: (646) 428-3800
Facsimile: (646) 428-3843
Email: OCR.NewYork@ed.gov
Michigan, Ohio
Office for Civil Rights,
Cleveland Office
U.S. Department of Education
1350 Euclid Avenue
Suite 325
Cleveland, OH 44115
Telephone: (216) 522-4970
Facsimile: (216) 522-2573
Email: OCR.Cleveland@ed.gov
Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, West Virginia
Office for Civil Rights,
Philadelphia Office
U.S. Department of Education
The Wanamaker Building
100 Penn Square East, Suite 515
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3323
Telephone: (215) 656-8541
Facsimile: (215) 656-8605
Email: OCR.Philadelphia@ed.gov

Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota
Office for Civil Rights,
Kansas City Office
U.S. Department of Education
One Petticoat Lane
1010 Walnut Street, Suite 320
Kansas City, MO 64106
Telephone: (816) 268-0550
Facsimile: (816) 268-0559
Email: OCR.KansasCity@ed.gov

  Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee
Office for Civil Rights,
Atlanta Office
U.S. Department of Education
61 Forsyth Street S.W., Suite 19T10
Atlanta, GA 30303-8927
Telephone: (404) 974-9406
Facsimile: (404) 974-9471
Email: OCR.Atlanta@ed.gov
  Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
Office for Civil Rights,
Denver Office
U.S. Department of Education
Cesar E. Chavez Memorial Building
1244 Speer Boulevard, Suite 310
Denver, CO 80204-3582
Telephone: (303) 844-5695
Facsimile: (303) 844-4303
Email: OCR.Denver@ed.gov
Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas
Office for Civil Rights,
Dallas Office
U.S. Department of Education
1999 Bryan Street, Suite 1620
Dallas, TX 75201-6810
Telephone: (214) 661-9600
Facsimile: (214) 661-9587
Email: OCR.Dallas@ed.gov
California
Office for Civil Rights,
San Francisco Office
U.S. Department of Education
50 United Nations Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94102
Telephone: (415) 486-5555
Facsimile: (415) 486-5570
Email: OCR.SanFrancisco@ed.gov
North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C.
Office for Civil Rights,
District of Columbia Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20202-1475
Telephone: (202) 453-6020
Facsimile: (202) 453-6021
Email: OCR.DC@ed.gov
Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the Northern Mariana Islands
Office for Civil Rights,
Seattle Office
U.S. Department of Education
915 Second Avenue, Room 3310
Seattle, WA 98174-1099
Telephone: (206) 607-1600
Facsimile: (206) 607-1601
Email: OCR.Seattle@ed.gov

Why is My Report Important?

We can’t fix what we don’t know. Your report helps us measure, and combat, anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. 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 in to 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, staff and student trainings, 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

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