Know Your Rights


How to File a Bullying, Harassment, and Discrimination Complaint with the Office for Civil Rights

My child has faced bullying harassment, or discrimination in school based on their race. I have already gone to the school and I do not feel like they have policies that offer comprehensive protections for my student. What can I do?


First, know that you are not alone. 21.5% Asian American and Pacific Islander students between ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied at school[1]. 54% of the AAPI students who were bullied, reported being bullied in the classroom[2]. Furthermore, Asian Americans report being more frequently targeted with race-related hate words at rates nearly 4 times their white counterparts[3]. Many schools need a way to better address instances of bullying, discrimination, and harassment in schools.  The Department of Justice defines bullying as repeated harmful acts and a real or perceived imbalance of power between the victim and the bully[4]. Bullying can be physical, verbal, and psychological/relational and can occur in person or through technology.

So, what can you do if you, your child, or someone else you know has experienced bullying, discrimination, or harassment in school based on their race, English speaking ability, sexual orientation, immigration status, ethnicity, gender identity, or any other characteristic?

If you or someone you know has experienced school based bullying, harassment, or discrimination, you are entitled to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education.



What laws are covered by Office of Civil Rights complaint process?

  • Title VI, which covers race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry, which also includes English language learner status, and actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including religious membership.
  • Title IX, which includes pregnancy or parental status, sex stereotypes (sexual orientation, gender expression, etc.), or gender identity, or transgender status.
  • Section 504 or Title II, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability
  • Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age

What are the requirements for filing a report?

  • The person making the complaint can be a third party (friend, parent, family member, or school faculty).
  • You must filed your complaint within 180 days of when the discrimination or bullying and harassment occurred.
  • You must also fill out a separate OCR Complaint Consent Form
  • You must fill out the entire form to avoid delay or dismissal of your complaint.
  • Your claim is confidential.
  • Retaliation is prohibited against those that have filed a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation.
  • Your complaint must address how you or someone you have known have been discriminated based on any of the protected classes listed above.

What should I do after filing a report?

OCR will promptly acknowledge receiving your complaint and will contact you by letter or telephone to let you know the next steps. OCR’s role is to be a neutral fact-finder and work with the school to promptly resolve complaints and restore a nondiscriminatory environment. Examples include working with the schools to adopt anti-bullying policies or issuing guidance to stop bullying, harassment, or discrimination to prevent recurrence.

What if I have more questions?