1. Undocumented students
California’s public schools have a unique mission to serve all students regardless of immigration status in an environment free from discrimination. This responsibility is not only rooted in federal and state anti-discrimination laws, but also in the landmark 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision Plyler v. Doe, which makes clear that no student can be denied a public elementary or secondary education based on immigration status without violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of United States Constitution.
2. Equity in student discipline
Federal and state data continue to show that African American and Latino students, in addition to students with disabilities, face discipline disproportionately in our public schools. For example, the 2015-2016 Civil Rights Data Collection of the U.S. Department of Education showed that male African American students represented 23 percent of the students expelled even though they only represent 8 percent of student enrollment nationally.
3. Title IX compliance
Colleges and universities across our nation have pending federal civil rights investigations under Title IX based on allegations that they have mishandled, mismanaged, or otherwise failed to address appropriately complaints of sexual misconduct in a prompt, thorough, and equitable manner. The proper handling of complaints of sexual violence and sexual harassment continues to be a growing area of concern with respect to civil rights compliance at post-secondary educational institutions and increasingly at elementary and secondary schools.
4. LGBTQ rights
California is leading the country in protecting and promoting the rights of LGBTQ employees and students. However, recent changes to federal policy limiting the rights of transgender individuals and related court cases have raised some questions about the scope of protections afforded to transgender individuals in our community under federal law. Whatever changes occur at the federal level, it is important to underscore that California laws continue to make clear that transgender employees and students are not to be discriminated against or harassed and should be afforded equal access to facilities in accordance with their stated gender identity.
5. Gender equality
California and the federal government have passed the Fair Pay Act and the Equal Pay Act, respectively, with the goal of closing the gender pay gap; however, recent U.S. Census data show that women continue to earn, on average, 81 cents for every dollar that men earn. Public agencies should regularly assess their compliance with the Fair Pay Act, minimize the effects of implicit gender bias in the workplace, and address sexual harassment in a prompt, thorough, and impartial manner.
6. Disability discrimination
Disability discrimination is one of the most prevalent and misunderstood forms of discrimination that prevents the full and equal participation of both employees and students in our workplaces and schools. Whether confronting matters involving facility accessibility, harassment, or reasonable accommodation, public institutions must develop a holistic approach to comply with all aspects of federal and state laws and address proactively and effectively all forms of disability discrimination.
7. California voting rights act
Effective January 1, 2003, the California Voting Rights Act was enacted to prevent the use of an at-large election method that impaired the ability of minority voters to either elect a candidate of their choosing or otherwise influence the outcome of elections. Effective January 1, 2017, California law now sets forth a process for a potential plaintiff to follow prior to commending a legal action against public agencies under the CVRA with a corresponding reimbursement cap.