Public schools and other educational institutions in West Virginia (WV) and elsewhere have obligations to protect students’ civil rights, including providing a safe educational environment that is free from discrimination. When problems related to civil rights and discrimination in WV schools arise, you need an experienced WV civil rights lawyer to help with the various grievance and claims processes.
What to Do When Faced with Discrimination in WV Schools?
Eliminating discrimination in WV schools is a cause worthy of everyone’s attention and vigilance. When the civil rights of a student or group of students are denied or obstructed, the law offers legal remedies. In some cases, issues may be resolved through the institution’s internal grievance process. However, when this is not possible or the process fails, bringing civil rights cases in federal or West Virginia courts can provide relief or resolution for victims of discrimination and civil rights abuses and, hopefully, prevent further instances of discrimination.
What Constitutes a Violation of Civil Rights?
Civil rights are specific privileges and rights granted to Americans by the US Constitution; federal, state, and possibly local laws or ordinances; and federal court decisions interpreting those sources of law. The obstruction or denial of these rights is prohibited and constitutes a form of discrimination.
Understanding what constitutes a violation of civil rights requires a review of the laws governing the rights assured to all Americans. Protection from discrimination is the primary focus of many civil rights laws. Specific groups of people, called protected classes, are named in the various laws and ordinances; these often include protection from discrimination for the following reasons:
- Race, color, or national origin;
- Gender or gender identity; or
Other breaches of civil rights can occur, however, including infringements of certain rights by law enforcement, correctional officers, violations in employment or housing, and some issues that arise in educational settings.
Laws Governing Civil Rights and Discrimination in WV Schools
Schools and educational institutions must protect the civil rights of students, ensure freedom from discrimination, and preserve access to education. Unless a behavior or act is in direct violation of an unrelated school policy or is unreasonable disruptive to the school’s functioning, a student or group of students’ civil rights cannot be denied or restricted.
Several federal and state laws establish various civil rights that may apply in the education setting in West Virginia. These include but are not limited to the following:
- The Age Discrimination Act of 1975;
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA);
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964;
- The Education Amendments of 1972;
- The Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974;
- The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act;
- The Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and
- The WV Human Rights Act.
The examples below illustrate a few different types of civil rights discrimination in schools:
- A school or university makes hiring or admission decisions based on age, gender or race;
- A school or university does not protect an employee or student from physical harm inflicted because of the victim’s disability; or
- A school or university fails to accord a student with a disability or other health condition reasonable accommodations so as not to exclude that student from participating in or receiving educational services.
Filing Education Civil Rights Cases in West Virginia
The process for enforcing civil rights by asserting a claim of discrimination in WV schools or filing civil rights cases in West Virginia depends upon the law or laws that have been or are being violated. Although not required, some institutions have internal grievance procedures that may prove useful in resolving an issue. Otherwise, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces many of the federal laws against discrimination.
A discrimination claim may be filed with the OCR within 180 days of the last incident involving discrimination or within 60 days of completion of an internal grievance process. OCR discrimination complaints can be filed online or by email, mail, or fax using the OCR Discrimination Complaint Form or a letter that includes specific information.
Contact Charleston, WV Civil Rights Attorney M. Andrew Brison
The appropriate course of action for civil rights cases in West Virginia depends on the details of the case and the violations involved. At any stage in the process of asserting a claim of discrimination or civil rights violations in educational settings, the assistance and guidance of an experienced civil rights attorney is essential.
As a Charleston, WV civil rights attorney, M. Andrew Brison can help you determine which civil rights law or laws are being or have been violated, gather and preserve critical and relevant evidence, and file your claim through the appropriate channels. If you are aware of a problem related to discrimination in WV schools, contact The Law Office of M. Andrew Brison by calling 304-397-8225 or completing this online contact form.