Not So Fast: OCR’s Fact Sheet on DEI Efforts is Only Half the Story
On January 31, 2023, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released a fact sheet clarifying that diversity, equity, and inclusion training and similar activities “are not generally or categorically prohibited” under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The OCR fact sheet provides a list of activities, such as DEI training, training on the impacts of racism or systemic racism, cultural competency and other nondiscrimination training, and using specific words, such as equity, discrimination, inclusion, diversity, systemic racism, or similar terms in school policies, programs, or activities. It says that Title VI does not “categorically” prohibit such activities and that deciding if there is a violation requires assessing the totality of the circumstances in each particular case.
According to OCR’s press release, it issued the fact sheet “in response to confusion regarding the legality of [DEI] activities in schools.” Although OCR does not elaborate, stories about the importance of conservative activism around how school teach racism abound. The issues are similar in the Title IX realm, with a small but mighty contingent of challengers to programs for girls such as coding camps, scholarships, grants, and mentorships claiming that such programs, which are aimed to remediate past and current discrimination against women in various spaces, are discriminatory against men.
Does OCR’s fact sheet remove the confusion? Not even close. Keep reading to find out why.