U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with officials representing the Smithsonian Institution, will be on hand this week to celebrate the 48th anniversary of the passage of the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The events commemorating the occasion will take place around New York City and Washington D.C.
Title VI deals with race- and origin-based discrimination in institutions that are eligible to receive federal financial aid. The section applies to all academic institutions, including K-12 schools, colleges and universities — private or public.
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.
On this occasion, student leaders from high schools all around the country will gather to also hear speeches by the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Russlynn Ali, and Roberto Rodriguez, who serves as the Special Assistant to the President for Education. Representatives from the White House Initiatives for American Indian and Alaska native Education, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Education Excellence for Hispanic and Historically Black Colleges will also address the students.
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 anniversary will also serve as an occasion for the release of Title VI: Enforcement Highlights, by the OCR, which documents office’s history of the fight against civil rights violations. The report draws on the data gathered for the Civil Rights Data Collection project, which was released earlier 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.
After the gathering are concluded, students attendees will enjoy a tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.