No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. –Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people from discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Agencies and institutions that receive ED funds covered by Title VI include: 50 state education agencies, their subrecipients, and vocational rehabilitation agencies; the education and vocational rehabilitation agencies of the District of Columbia and of the territories and possessions of the United States; 17,000 local education systems; 4,700 colleges and universities; 10,000 proprietary institutions; and other institutions, such as libraries and museums that receive ED funds.

“[T]o establish a prima facie case under Title VI, plaintiffs must show that they: (1) are members of a protected class; (2) were qualified for the educational benefit or program at issue; (3) suffered an adverse action; and (4) the adverse action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.” 

Evidence that similarly situated students outside the protected class were treated differently than the plaintiff can raise an inference of discrimination. In addition, school officials’ deliberate indifference to student-on- student discrimination that causes a hostile learning environment can be a form of intentional discrimination. Put differently, plaintiffs do not need to prove that a teacher or school intentionally discriminated against students to prevail on a Title VI claim; they only need to prove that a public official ignored pervasive discrimination or encouraged such discrimination.

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