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U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights Releases New Civil Rights Data on Students’ Access to Educational Opportunities During the Pandemic

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The U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today released new civil rights data from the 2020–21 school year, offering critical insight regarding civil rights indicators during that coronavirus pandemic year. OCR also released seven data reports and snapshots, including A First Look: Students’ Access to Educational Opportunities in the Nation’s Public Schools, which provides an overview of these data and information.

“In America, talent and creativity can come from anywhere, but only if we provide equitable educational opportunities to students everywhere,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We cannot be complacent when the data repeatedly tells us that the race, sex, or disability of students continue to dramatically impact everything from access to advanced placement courses to the availability of school counselors to the use of exclusionary and traumatic disciplinary practices. The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized equity for underserved students throughout our historic investments in education, and we will continue to partner with states, districts, and schools to Raise the Bar and provide all students with access to an academically rigorous education in safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environments.”

OCR’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) is a mandatory survey of public schools serving students from preschool to grade 12. The purpose of the CRDC is to provide the federal government and members of the public with vital data about the extent to which students have equal educational opportunities required by federal civil rights laws. While OCR generally collects the CRDC biennially, the 2020-21 CRDC is the first published since the 2017-18 collection (which was released in 2020), because OCR paused the collection due to the pandemic. OCR’s 2020-21 CRDC contains information collected from over 17,000 school districts and over 97,000 schools. These data include student enrollment; access to courses, teachers, other school staff, and the Internet and devices; and school climate factors, such as student discipline, harassment or bullying, and school offenses.

The 2020-21 CRDC reflects stark inequities in education access throughout the nation. For example, high schools with high enrollments of Black and Latino students offered fewer courses in mathematics, science, and computer science than schools with low enrollments of Black and Latino students.  English learner students and students with disabilities, who received services under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, had a lower rate of enrollment in mathematics and science courses when compared to enrollment rates of all high school students.

“These new CRDC data reflect troubling differences in students’ experiences in our nation’s schools,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “We remain committed to working with school communities to ensure the full civil rights protections that federal law demands.”

As part of today’s release of the 2020-21 CRDC, OCR launched a redesigned CRDC website that now includes an archival tool with access to historical civil rights data from 1968 to 1998 which can be found here. The 2020-21 CRDC public-use data file, reports, and snapshots are available on the Department’s redesigned CRDC website. Additional reports and snapshots will be posted periodically on the website.  

Key data points from the 2020–21 CRDC are below and highlighted in one or more of the data reports or snapshots.

  • K-12 students reported to school employees over 42,500 allegations of harassment or bullying on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, race, disability, or religion.
    • Forty percent of allegations of harassment or bullying was on the basis of sex, 29% was on the basis of race, 19% was on the basis of sexual orientation, 9% was on the basis of disability, and 3% was on the basis of religion.
  • Student reports of being harassed or bullied differed by race and sex.
    • Black students represented 15% of K-12 enrollment, but 37% of students who reported being harassed or bullied on the basis of race.
    • White students represented 46% of K-12 enrollment but 68% of students who reported being harassed or bullied on the basis of sex, and 70% of students who reported being harassed or bullied on the basis of disability.
    • American Indian or Alaska Native students represented 1% of K-12 enrollment, but 2% of students who reported being harassed or bullied on the basis of race, sex, or disability.
    • Boys were overrepresented in reports of being harassed or bullied on the basis of race or disability. Girls were overrepresented in reports of being harassed or bullied on the basis of sex.

    School Offenses

  • Districts reported approximately 274,700 incidents of school offenses.
    • The majority of incidents (78%) were threats of physical attack without a weapon.
    • Public schools reported over 3,000 incidents of rape or attempted rape and sexual assault (other than rape).
    • About 180 schools (less than 1%) reported at least one incident involving a school shooting, and about 100 schools (less than 1%) reported a homicide of a student, faculty member, or staff member.

    Student Discipline

  • About 786,600 students in K-12 received one or more in-school suspensions, about 638,700 received one or more out-of-school suspensions, and about 28,300 received an expulsion.
    • Compared to their overall enrollments, Black boys and girls, White boys, and boys of two or more races were overrepresented among K-12 students who were suspended and expelled.
      • Both White and Black boys were overrepresented in K-12 school discipline outcomes, but Black boys were nearly two times more likely than White boys to receive an out-of-school suspension or an expulsion.
    • When considering their overall enrollment, K-12 students with disabilities were also overrepresented in discipline outcomes.
      • Students with disabilities represented 17% of K-12 student enrollment but accounted for 29% of students who received one or more out-of-school suspensions and 21% who received expulsions.
    • The nation’s public school districts referred approximately 61,900 K-12 students to law enforcement, and about 14% of those referrals resulted in school-related arrests. These disciplinary actions differed by students’ race/ethnicity and disability.
      • Black students represented 15% of K-12 student enrollment, but 18% of students referred to law enforcement and 22% of students subjected to a school-related arrest.
      • White students represented 46% of K-12 student enrollment, but 55% of students referred to law enforcement and 47% of students subjected to a school-related arrest.
      • Students with disabilities represented 17% of K-12 student enrollment, but 27% of students referred to law enforcement and 28% of students subjected to a school-related arrest.

      Restraint and Seclusion

    • Approximately 52,800 K-12 students were physically restrained, mechanically restrained, and/or placed in seclusion at schools.
    • Eighty-seven percent of schools reported allowing students to take home school-issued devices.

    The Department’s data reports and snapshots are available here and listed below.

    1. A First Look: Students’ Access to Educational Opportunities in the Nation’s Public Schools highlights data from the 2020–21 CRDC on student enrollment, access to preschool programs, access to mathematics, science and computer science courses and other programs, Internet and devices, teachers and school support staff, and school climate factors.
    2. Student Discipline and School Climate in U.S. Public Schools highlights data from the 2020–21 CRDC on student discipline, such as suspensions, expulsion, referrals to law enforcement, school-related arrests, and corporal punishment; student harassment or bullying; and incidents of offenses.
    3. Student Enrollment and School Characteristics in U.S. Public Schools highlights data from the 2020–21 CRDC on student enrollment and demographics and school characteristics.   
    4. Referrals to Law Enforcement and School-related Arrests in U.S. Public Schools  highlights data on referrals to law enforcement and school-related arrests. 
    5. Sexual Violence and Sex-based Harassment or Bullying in U.S. Public Schools provides an overview of data on sexual violence, including sexual assault and rape or attempted rape, and sexual harassment or bullying.
    6. An Overview of the U.S. Department of Education’s 2020–21 Civil Rights Data Collection,  provides an overview of OCR’s administration of the 2020–21 CRDC.
    7. Civil Rights Data Quality from Start to Finishexplains why data quality matters and presents steps that OCR took to improve data quality for the 2020–21 CRDC.

    The Department will release additional data reports and snapshots on key topics such as student access to courses and programs and data specific to English learner students and to students with disabilities.

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