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Government Group Scrutinizing Policies at Campuses

March 13, 2015

Racist chants by students at the University of Oklahoma have gained national attention in the press and on the internet.  Challenges to policies on reasonable accommodations at colleges, universities and schools have also been the subject of stories in the media.  Such stories should and do keep administrators up at night. To add to these situations, there is now a coordinated effort by state and federal agencies to target colleges, universities, and other educational institutions in Connecticut.

The United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut has announced the formation of an Educational Opportunities Civil Rights Working Group (Working Group), which is designed "to address civil rights violations by public and private educational institutions, after-school programs, summer camps and day care centers."  The Working Group is made up of representatives from the Department of Justice ("DOJ") and other federal agencies, state agencies, such as the CHRO, trade groups, and advocacy organizations, such as the NAACP and Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission.  The Working Group will be focusing on student and staff discrimination cases, as well as conduct at school functions or by groups on campus that are racist, homophobic, or misogynistic.  The Working Group will also be examining policies and practices regarding disability accommodations and access to educational buildings and programs.

The DOJ has already taken steps to generate publicity for the Working Group, including holding a seminar in Southern Connecticut.  This DOJ initiative mirrors an increased attention to educational institutions at the CHRO, whose officials are publicly encouraging "anyone who believes they may have been subjected to any type of disparate treatment due to their protected status to immediately contact us about filing a claim."

Given this increased focus by federal and state agencies, all educational institutions should immediately review and ensure that their policies and procedures are updated and publicized to students and staff, that staff members have received appropriate training, and that all employee, student or public requests for accommodations or complaints of discrimination are addressed individually and thoroughly.

For more information about this topic, please read "Educational Institutions Face Heightened Scrutiny," an article written by Peter Murphy and published in the Connecticut Law Tribune.

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