Tips for Filing a Title IX Civil Rights Complaint with US Department of Education

As more and more girls and young women learn about their rights to equal sports programs and facilities under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, they are realizing how far behind their schools are.
More than 3,600 Title IX athletics complaints were filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in fiscal 2014.
Here’s what you need to know to get started on filing a complaint.

Things to know before you file a complaint with the OCR

  1. Anyone can file a Title IX athletics complaint, including a community member interested in local school teams who has observed inequities. You don’t have to be a student at the school or even related to a student.
  2. You have to file a complaint within 180 days of the unequal treatment. So you should file as soon as possible, even if there is an ongoing issue, like not providing enough spots for girls to play sports. On the other hand, in many cases, it may be OK to file after the 180 days end.
  3. The changes you seek (known in the law as “relief”) might include the school adding more teams for girls or upgrading facilities to equalize what girls and boys receive.
  4. You don’t have to reveal your identity in your complaint! If you are concerned about retaliation, you can ask the agency to keep your identity confidential. We offer two notes of caution, however, in taking this route: First, in some cases, complaining confidentially may make it difficult for OCR to investigate. Second, your complaint won’t be anonymous. If someone files a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request after your complaint is addresses, the information in it will be revealed.

Tips on gathering information to include in your complaint

  1. You can sometimes get helpful information through an internal process, if your school has one for Title IX complaints. You might even resolve the problem. But you’re not required to go through your school’s internal complaint process before filing an OCR complaint.
  2. Take a look at our Title IX checklist to identify issues you might have missed.
  3. Claims of retaliation can be brought within the complaint, or after a complaint is made.
  4. After filing a complaint with OCR, you may supplement it with more information. You can also request updates and ask OCR when you can expect to hear from them or when the investigation will be complete.
  5. OCR accepts “class” complaints, which means you can file on behalf of many girls who claim they have experienced similar discrimination.

Tips about How OCR Handles Complaints

  1. You can file a complaint online or via mail or fax or email to [email protected].
  2. OCR may conduct a phone interview with you to gather additional information. Prepare what you wish to say and share, highlighting key points of your complaint as needed.
  3. OCR may try to resolve a complaint early and let the school district voluntarily address the allegations.
  4. If early resolution is not successful, OCR will complete an investigation, generally within 180 days, though it can take longer.
  5. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you may appeal OCR’s decision within 60 days.