Civil Rights

The department's Office for Civil Rights is responsible for ensuring compliance with civil rights—both within the department and in programs that receive funding from the department of education.

Within Tennessee public school districts and other programs that receive funding from the department of education, the office for civil rights investigates and ensures compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX).

Compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is addressed by the department’s special populations division.

Within applicable areas, the office for civil rights offers technical assistance and resolves complaints. The office for civil rights does not bring lawsuits on behalf of parents or school districts and does not provide monetary compensation.

Please find general information on civil rights below. You may also access information specific to Title VI and Title IX via the following links:

General Information

Civil Rights Guidance

The United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) publishes guidance and resources on civil rights laws’ application in education. A large percentage of that guidance is available in the Reading Room. OCR also provides access to recent OCR complaint investigations and compliance reviews on its website.

The department of education also publishes resources on Title VI, Title IX, and Section 504 on its website.

Civil Rights and Bullying Compliance

Bullying and civil rights harassment often overlap. Sometimes inappropriate behavior constitutes bullying and harassment (on the basis of race, sex, or both). Sometimes individuals classify behavior as bullying when in reality, it is harassment. The United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights published guidance in October 2010 to remind school administrators to address inappropriate behavior under any and all applicable federal civil rights laws or state bullying laws.

To ensure all public school districts comply with all obligations under Title VI and Title IX and state bullying and harassment laws (Tennessee Code Annotated 49-6-4501 et al), the department created the annual Civil Rights and Bullying Compliance Report to collect compliance information. Read more about the annual civil rights and bullying compliance report here.

Complaint Investigation and Resolution

If civil rights compliance cannot be achieved informally, the office for civil rights address complaints formally, as outlined in the Investigation and Resolution Manual. To file a complaint, please contact the office for civil rights at 615-253-1550.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Generally speaking, parents have the right to inspect and review education records of their children and school districts must obtain parental consent to disclose information to others. Special rules apply to a single record that contains information about multiple students and government agencies with regulatory oversight over public schools. Access FERPA regulations (34 C.F.R. Part 99) here.

Private Schools

The departmednt of education office for civil rights is not authorized to address discrimination in non-public schools (that do not receive funding from the department of education). Similarly, the state bullying and harassment provisions do not apply to non-public schools.

Charter Schools

In May 2014 guidance, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights confirmed that charter schools must comply with all federal civil rights laws that apply to traditional public schools. The guidance also addressed four specific civil rights issues in the charter school context: admissions, the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities, services to English-language learners, and non-discrimination in discipline.

Additional information about charter schools is available here.

Colleges and Universities

The department of education office for civil rights is not authorized to address discrimination in post-secondary educational institutions or non-public schools (that do not receive funding from the department of education).

The following information for public, post-secondary educational institutions is provided below:

  • Each individual campus within the University of Tennessee system has an Office of Equity and Diversity that address all civil rights concerns and related matters on that campus. Concerns should be directed to the respective campus’ office of equity and diversity.
  • For concerns with the colleges and universities within the Tennessee Board of Regents system, please contact the appropriate individual identified on the Tennessee Board of Regents’ website.

To Access Tennessee Laws

  1. Go to the Tennessee Code Unannotated Free Public Access page on Lexis Nexis.
  2. Agree to the Terms & Conditions.
  3. At the top of the page in the Search field, enter the code number (i.e., 49-1-101), or search by keyword in Title 49.
Last Update: July 21, 2014