Education Secretary Arne Duncan, along with officials from White House and the Smithsonian Institution will join high-school student leaders from New York and Washington D.C., today for a series of events celebrating the 48th anniversary of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Joining the students and Secretary Duncan will be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali, Special Assistant to the President for Education Roberto Rodriguez, and leaders from the White House Initiatives on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Education Excellence for Hispanics, and Historically Black Colleges.
Students will also hear from curators of the Smithsonian's National Museums of African American History and Culture and American History, and will delve further into civil rights history through discussions with senior administration officials about the struggle to achieve legislation prohibiting discrimination based on race in our nation's schools. They will also discuss current issues and perspectives on Title VI and develop their own visions for advancing equality. Youth involvement played a significant role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and youth continue to play a major role in sustaining its principles.
In addition, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will release "Title VI: Enforcement Highlights," published to commemorate the 48th anniversary of Title VI, and reviewing OCR's work over the last three years to enforce this important civil rights statue.
"Even as we celebrate today, we must also honor the legacy of Title VI by understanding its enduring relevance and continuing to vigorously enforce its protections for students of all races and national origins," said Russlynn Ali, the Department's assistant secretary for Civil Rights.
"Title VI: Enforcement Highlights" describes how OCR has fought civil rights violations such as discriminatory discipline, racial harassment, and barriers to education for English learners. OCR received nearly 5500 Title VI-related complaints in the last three years – a record -- and launched over 55 systemic, proactive investigations. The document also covers OCR's ground-breaking policy guidance in areas such as how school districts and colleges can voluntarily choose to promote diversity in their student bodies within the Constitution.
The document also reports on data culled from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), released by OCR in March of this year. The CRDC surveyed 72,000 schools teaching 85 percent of America's students, and data show that racial inequities remain a reality in many of America's schools. For example, African-American students are over 3 ½ times more likely than their white peers to be suspended or expelled. And Hispanic students represent 21 percent of the enrollment in high school but only 13 percent of students passing at least one Advanced Placement exam.
Title VI states, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." Title VI applies to all levels of educational institutions – public or private – that receive federal financial assistance. The statute extends to all programs and activities and prohibits denial of equal access to college- and career-preparatory courses, programs for English learners, and discriminatory discipline and harassment—all of which are fundamental barriers to equal education.
Among the young people expected to attend today's events are students from the New York Mayor's Youth Leadership Council, New York Urban Ambassadors, the Close Up program, the Washington, D.C., Schools Without Walls, as well as winners of the Princeton Prize on Race Relations.
Following their time at the Department, the students and their chaperones will take part in tours through the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.