Claim Your Rights

What happens when I file a report?

The Role of the Department of Education

The Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education is charged with enforcing 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 Office of Civil Rights.

Learn more about the Department of Education.

What will the Office for Civil Rights do? 

The Office for Civil Rights will investigate and attempt to resolve the complaint, provided it involves some form of harassment on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, national origin or disability. When the Office for Civil Rights finds that bullying, harassment, or discrimination has occurred, they work with the school to develop a voluntary agreement. Claims are often resolved by agreements requiring schools to adopt effective anti-bullying policies, staff and student trainings, address the incidents in question, and to take other steps to restore a nondiscriminatory environment.

In addition to resolving complaints by students and their parents, the Office for Civil Rights takes steps to inform schools of their obligation to provide a nondiscriminatory environment. On January 19, 2001, the Office for Civil Rights issued policy guidance that explained the legal principles requiring educational institutions that receive federal funds to take steps reasonably calculated to stop bullying, harassment, or discrimination when it occurs and prevent recurrence. On January 25, 2006, the Office for Civil Rights also issued a "Dear Colleague" letter reminding recipients of the standards applicable to enforcement of compliance in cases raising sexual harassment issues.

The Office for Civil Rights field offices also engage in a variety of technical assistance activities in collaboration with state and local education and law enforcement agencies to encourage educational institutions to improve their anti-bullying policies and procedures and to assist students and their parents to work with schools to enhance the schools' anti-bullying capability.

In the unlikely event that a voluntary resolution is not obtained, Office for Civil Rights has the power to suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue to administer federal funding to the school.

Additionally, the case may be referred to the Department of Justice for judicial proceedings.  In other words, legal action will be taken on your behalf by the Department of Justice in a court to determine and enforce your legal rights.

By filing a complaint you can help build safer schools for LGBT students and assist the government to measure anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Only with your help can we help measure and adequately address this epidemic that cripples our nation's schools.

What should I include in an Office for Civil Rights complaint?

When filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, consider whether the conduct at issue may be considered a form of sex discrimination under Title IX. When drafting a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, be sure to specify how the bullying, harassment, or discrimination was based on the “failure to conform to sex stereotypes,” or how boys and girls are expected to act. It is critical to note that bullying, harassment, or discrimination faced by LGBT students often will include elements of both sexual orientation, gender identity or expression *and* sex discrimination, not to mention other bases like race, color, religion, national origin or disability. 

Additionally, if applicable, be sure to highlight ways the harassment may have been based on the perception that a student is too masculine or too feminine, participation in non-traditional extracurricular activities based on sex stereotypes, non-traditional dress or mannerism based on sex stereotypes, along with other things that are about sex stereotypes that don’t necessarily address their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. 
For more examples about “gender based harassment,” please reference pages v, 3 and 7 of this Office for Civil Rights document.

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Get more answers or help with filing a report from PFLAG National or GLSEN now.

PFLAG National
Diego Sanchez, Director of Policy
Phone: (
202) 467-8180 ext. 221

GLSEN Public Policy Office

Shawn Gaylord, Director of Public Policy

Phone: (
202) 621-5822