On November 15, 2023, the U.S. Department of Education’s (“Department”) Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) released new civil rights data from the 2020-2021 school year, as well as seven data reports and snapshots which provide an overview of that data. OCR also launched a redesigned Civil Rights Data Collection (“CRDC”) website that includes public-use data files, reports, and snapshots, which school districts can use to review their own and other districts’ data, available here.

OCR’s CRDC, a mandatory survey of public schools, provides the federal government and the public with data about the extent to which students have equal educational opportunities as required by federal civil rights laws. The 2020-2021 CRDC contains data from over 17,000 school districts and 97,000 schools related to topics including student enrollment; access to courses, teachers, school staff, and the internet and devices; and school climate factors.

The 2020-2021 data reveals persistent inequities in educational access across the country. The Department highlighted certain data points, often underscoring these inequities.

  • 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.
  • Student reports of being harassed or bullied differed by race and sex. For example, Black students represented 15% of enrollment, but 37% of students who reported being harassed on the basis of race. White students represented 46% of enrollment, but 68% of students who reported being harassed or bullied on the basis of sex. Girls were overrepresented in reports of being harassed or bullied on the basis of sex, while boys were overrepresented in reports of being harassed or bullied on the basis of race or disability.
  • Compared to overall enrollment, both White and Black boys were overrepresented in school discipline outcomes, but Black boys were nearly two times more likely than White boys to receive an out-of-school suspension or expulsion.
  • Students with disabilities represented 17% of student enrollment but accounted for 29% of students who received one or more out-of-school suspensions and 21% who received expulsions.
  • Students with disabilities represented 17% of student enrollment, but 27% of students referred to law enforcement.
  • Boys, Black students, students of two or more races, and students with disabilities were subjected to restraints and seclusion at higher percentages than their overall enrollments.
  • Some student groups have fewer opportunities to access courses. Approximately 40% of schools with high enrollments of Black and Latino students offered computer science courses, compared to 54% of schools with low enrollments of Black and Latino students.
  • Student enrollment in Advanced Placement (“AP”) courses differed by race or ethnicity. Black and Latino students enrolled in AP courses at lower percentages than their overall enrollments, while White and Asian students enrolled in AP courses near or above their overall enrollments.
  • Approximately 522,400 students attended public schools where fewer than half of the teachers met all state certification requirements. Of the students attending those schools, 66% were Black and Latino students.
  • 7 million students attended a school with a school law enforcement officer or security guard but without a school counselor.
  • Student internet access varied by state, with the lowest percentage of schools being connected to the internet found in Alaska and Florida.

In addition to the seven reports and snapshots the Department released, the Department plans to release reports and snapshots on topics such as student access to courses and programs and data specific to English learner students and students with disabilities in the near future.

What this means to you

School districts should review their own CRDC data and their policies and practices with respect to the areas in which the CRDC data shows local or national disparities between student populations because these are the areas on which OCR is likely to focus. As part of such a review, we recommend that school districts consider how to implement best practices to address persistent disparities.