Department of Education:

Resolving Discrimination Complaints Has Improved With New Processing System

HEHS-99-47R: Published: Mar 23, 1999. Publicly Released: Mar 23, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), focusing on changes: (1) the OCR has made in its complaint resolution process since fiscal year (FY) 1993; and (2) in the timeliness and efficiency in resolving complaints between FY 1993 and FY 1997.

GAO noted that: (1) since FY 1993, OCR has improved its complaint resolution process in two major ways; (2) it replaced a process that focused on investigating complaints with a more flexible system that focuses on resolving complaints as soon as possible, which allows complaints to be mutually resolved at any point in the process; (3) OCR has also replaced its hierarchical structure for investigating complaints with case resolution teams--which include attorneys, investigators, and support staff--having the authority to reach final determination for most complaints; (4) OCR has undertaken several information and communication efforts to: (a) replace a mainframe-based discrimination case information system with a personal computer-based system directly accessible by field office staff; (b) provide online access to critical case resolution resources through an electronic library; and (c) establish internal networks for key subject matter issues; (5) during FY 1993 through FY 1997, OCR improved the average time to resolve complaints and reduced its inventory of unresolved complaints; and (6) these improvements occurred while the annual number of complaints received by OCR increased slightly (from 5,093 to 5,296) and OCR's staffing declined 20 percent (from 854 to 681 full-time equivalent staff).

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