Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that no person in the United States shall, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance from the Department of Education. Failure to follow these regulations can result in civil suit against the school districts and their officers.
Under the regulations implementing Title VI (34 C.F.R. Part 100), specific discriminatory actions prohibited under Title VI in federally funded programs or activities include:
- denying an individual any service, financial aid, or other benefit provided under the program;
- providing any service, financial aid, or other benefit to an individual which is different, or is provided in a different manner, form that provided to others in the program;
- subjecting an individual to segregation or separate treatment in any matter related to his receipt of any service, financial aid, or other benefit under the program;
- restricting an individual in any way in the enjoyment of any advantage or privilege enjoyed by others receiving any service, financial aid, or other benefit under the program;
- treating an individual differently from others in determining whether he satisfies any admission, enrollment, quota, eligibility, membership or other requirement or condition which individuals must meet in order to be provided with any service, financial aid, or other benefit under the program;
- denying an individual an opportunity to participate in the program through the provision of services or otherwise afford him an opportunity to do so which is different from that afforded others under the program; and
- denying a person the opportunity to participate as a member of a planning or advisory body which is an integral part of the program.
Title VI also has been interpreted to require that school districts receiving federal financial assistance must provide alternative language services for limited English proficient students enrolled in the district to enable them to participate effectively in the regular instructional program.
At the elementary and secondary level, potential Title VI issues include:
- inappropriate use of assessment instruments for placement of minority students in classes and programs;
- failure to identify and provide alternative language services to students who are limited English proficient;
- disproportionate overrepresentation of minority students in special education classes or programs;
- underinclusion of minority students in gifted and talented education programs;
- ability grouping or tracking that results in racially segregated classes;
- racial harassment of students, and;
- differential treatment on the basis of race, color, or national origin in the application of disciplinary sanctions.
At the postsecondary level, issues include:
- discrimination in the recruitment, admission, or treatment of students by colleges and universities; and
- failure to eliminate the vestiges of formerly segregated systems of higher education.
School districts should be mindful of their obligations under Title VI since liability for failing to ensure that students belonging to minority groups have equal access and receive equal treatment when compared to other children in the district.