How Do I Sue a School for Discrimination?

If you are in the unfortunate position of being discriminated against by a school, there is hope. It might be possible to sue a school for discrimination if they violated your or your child’s civil rights by discriminating based on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other protected status. However, it’s important to understand that this process can be challenging, stressful, and time-consuming, so it’s best to consult with an attorney before proceeding with any legal action. Suing a school for discrimination is not a simple task, but it can be done with the assistance of a skilled education lawyer.

Before you can file a discrimination lawsuit, you must first do what is called “exhaust administrative remedies.” This could include filing a claim directly with the school or with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. In the latter case, the OCR will conduct an investigation and may help you reach a resolution on your claims. However, if the OCR concludes that the school did not discriminate, it will issue a letter allowing you to file a lawsuit. 

What are examples of discrimination in school?

Once you have completed the exhaustion of remedies process, you can file a lawsuit alleging various types of discrimination. It’s important to note that you can only sue a school if they discriminate against you or your child based on a status that is protected by law. The Educational Opportunities Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division enforces these civil rights laws, which ban discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, language, sex, religion, and disability in schools. 

Some examples of the various types of discrimination claims are detailed below.

Race, Color, and National Origin Discrimination

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits schools that receive federal funds from discriminating based on race, color, and national origin. The most prominent examples of race, color, or national discrimination involve segregation issues. Still, any type of discrimination that is based on a student’s race, color, or national origin is illegal.

Sex Discrimination

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bans the recipients of federal financial assistance from discriminating based on sex in education programs and activities that they operate in order to ensure that all students receive equal educational opportunities. Some common examples of sex-based discrimination include sexual harassment and inequitable athletic opportunities for students of different sexes.

Religious Discrimination

Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits public schools and institutions of higher learning from discriminating based on religion. Some examples of religious discrimination include refusing to allow students to wear religious headgear, denying opportunities to participate in certain activities based on their religion, or applying different rules to religious clubs than secular ones.

Disability Discrimination

There are several pieces of federal legislation that prohibit educational discrimination based on a student’s disability:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits both public and private schools from excluding students with disabilities or denying them services, programs, or activities based on their disabilities. 
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 programs or activities receiving federal funds from excluding, denying benefits to, or otherwise discriminating against a student because of a disability.
  • The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) requires states and local education agencies to provide children with disabilities a free and appropriate public education. 

What is a typical settlement for discrimination in school?

Because there is no “typical” discrimination case, there is no typical settlement that you can expect to receive for a case involving discrimination in school. Settlements can include both monetary compensation and changes to the school’s discriminatory policies or practices. However, the settlement agreements that are reached will vary depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. 

Consulting with an experienced education attorney can help you get a better sense of the type of settlement you may be able to receive for your case. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice also lists case summaries explaining settlements reached in various educational discrimination cases, so reviewing these can give you an idea of how a possible settlement could work. 

Read More

Can You Sue a School for Emotional Distress?

How Do I Sue an Educational Institution?

Is It Against the Law to Not Follow IEP?

What Did the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act Do?

About & RMO Lawyers

RMO LLP serves clients in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Orange County, and communities throughout California. Our founder, Scott E. Rahn has been named “Top 100 – Trust and Estate Litigation” by SuperLawyers, Trusts and Estates Litigator of the Year, and Best Lawyers in America for Litigation – Trusts and Estates.