Anyone who believes that an educational institution receiving federal financial assistance has discriminated against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age may file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The person or organization filing the complaint doesn’t need to be a victim of the alleged discrimination, but may complain on behalf of another person or group.

Q: What is the Office for Civil Rights (OCR)?
A: The mission of OCR is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.

Q: What is OCR's role during the complaint process?
A: OCR's role is to be a neutral fact-finder and to promptly resolve complaints. OCR has a variety of options for resolving complaints, including facilitated resolutions and investigations. OCR does not act as an advocate for either party during the process.

Q: How do you file a complaint of discrimination with OCR?
A: Complaints can be filed using the online complaint form. Additional information about filing a complaint can be found here

The OCR office for Iowa is located at:
Chicago Office for Civil Rights U.S. Department of Education
John C. Kluczynski Federal Building 230 Dearborn Street, 37th Floor
Chicago, IL, 60604

Telephone: 312-730-1560
TDD: 800-877-8339
FAX: 312-730-1576

Q: What is the timeline to file?
A: A complaint must be filed within 180 calendar days of the date of the alleged discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended by OCR for good cause.

Prior to filing a complaint with OCR against an institution, you may want to find out about the institution’s grievance process and use that process to have the complaint resolved. However, you’re not required by law to use the institutional grievance process before filing a complaint with OCR. If you use an institutional grievance process and also choose to file the complaint with OCR, the complaint must be filed with OCR within 60 days after completion of the institutional grievance process.

Q: What should you include in your complaint?
A: You should let the OCR know which school, college or other institution you are complaining about; the person(s) who has been discriminated against; when the discrimination occurred; and you should sign and date the letter and let OCR know how you can be reached by phone and letter so that OCR can contact you. If filing on-line, you will still need to provide an original signature by mail, which may be done by printing and mailing a "Consent Form" linked from the bottom of the on-line complaint form.

Q: How promptly will OCR respond to your complaint?
A: OCR will promptly acknowledge receiving your complaint and will contact you by letter or telephone to let you know whether it will proceed further with your complaint.

Q: How does the OCR handle a complaint?
A: OCR evaluates each complaint that it receives in order to determine whether it can investigate the complaint. A comprehensive overview of its complaint processing procedures can be found on its website.

Source: U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights