Department of Education:

Efforts by the Office for Civil Rights to Resolve Asian-American Complaints

HEHS-96-23: Published: Dec 11, 1995. Publicly Released: Dec 12, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' (OCR) handling of discrimination cases involving Asian-Americans who applied to or were enrolled in postsecondary schools, focusing on: (1) whether OCR followed established policies and procedures in conducting complaint investigations; (2) a comparison of the timeliness and outcomes of complaint investigations and compliance reviews for fiscal years 1988 through 1995 involving Asian-Americans and other minority groups; (3) whether recent OCR administrative changes improved its performance and resolution of complaint investigations and compliance reviews.

GAO found that: (1) OCR generally followed its established policies and procedures in the 13 cases reviewed, but 7 of the 11 resolved cases exceeded OCR time frames for resolution and OCR official case files did not adequately reflect headquarters actions; (2) although its staffing levels and other resources remained stable while discrimination complaints increased, OCR averaged less than 180 days in revolving most of its general workload; (3) OCR usually took more time on average to resolve Asian-American cases than other minority cases; (4) the longer resolution periods for Asian-American cases were partially due to the high percentage of cases involving admission issues and greater number of violations per case, which took longer and more resources to resolve; (5) the resolution of Asian-American cases resulted in more corrective actions and changes made by postsecondary schools; (6) OCR has initiated administrative changes to improve its performance and resolution of complaints and compliance reviews which include setting priorities, revising procedures to respond more flexibly to complaints and reduce unnecessary documentation, increasing its use of personal computers and networks to track cases, and redeploying staff to improve productivity; and (7) although OCR has reduced its case backlog, it is too soon tell if these administrative changes will significantly improve OCR handling of complaint investigations and compliance reviews over the long term.

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