– Officials from the Office of Civil Rights questioned Gavilan
College faculty regarding vocational education and disability
services for three days this week, officials said.
It was a standard visit,
Jan Bernstein-Chargin, Gavilan’s director of public information
Gilroy – Officials from the Office of Civil Rights questioned Gavilan College faculty regarding vocational education and disability services for three days this week, officials said.
“It was a standard visit,” Jan Bernstein-Chargin, Gavilan’s director of public information said. She said the visit was to ensure that all students can get to class, are able to register for classes and have access to the school materials they need.
But the OCR had another explanation.
“There was a complaint. This was an evaluation to follow the complaint,” said OCR media contact Jane Glickman. “It occurred on March 14 – so it was very recent.”
Under OCR policy, a formal complaint must be filed within 180 calendar days of the alleged discrimination.
Glickman was careful not to call the visit an investigation. Standard procedure following a complaint is an evaluation of the institution to see if an investigation is needed, she explained. “But it’s not there yet, we’re still in the evaluation stage.”
The OCR refused to provide insight into the nature of the complaint.
The OCR’s role is to enforce federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin or disability in all programs receiving assistance from the Department of Education.
Gavilan officials were unaware any complaint had been filed and believed it was a standard visit, a procedure the agency has done in the past.
According to Gavilan President Dr. Steven Kinsella, the last time the OCR visited Gavilan’s campus was about 10 years ago. He said the same officials came and “noticed significant improvements” on the campus.
The evaluation comes just one week after the Dispatch ran a letter to the editor by Gavilan’s women’s softball coach Tim Kenworthy, who claims that he has not been offered tenure because of his outspoken displeasure over the state of the women’s facilities to senior staff members.
But in an interview with The Dispatch Wednesday evening, assistant women’s softball coach Bruce Nicholson denies he or Kenworthy filed a complaint with the OCR and said both were unaware of any complaint having been filed.
“This has nothing to do with athletics, this is not about Title IX, this is not about Tim Kenworthy,” Bernstein-Chargin reinforced. “Most of the questions had to do with students with disabilities and to make sure (those) students know their rights.”
A partial list of the citations by the OCR to Kinsella were: Difficult access to some of the Vocational Educational buildings by disabled students, specifically the Community Education building, and limited access for hearing impaired students to reach campus security.
The OCR also recommended the college providing more literature in Braille and offering brochures in languages other than Spanish and English, and featuring more males in campus brochures and on Web sites. A complete report by the OCR should be available in two weeks.
As of press time Friday, no one from the school’s Disabled Student Services Department was available for comment.
Kinsella said that what shocked Gavilan officials was that, “The OCR found that most of our materials picture women in our brochures (and on the Internet).” They took notice of the fact that there was an underrepresentation of males in some of our VocEd programs he said. “It’s a matter of keeping an eye on it.”
Gavilan is working to stimulate interest for both males and females in traditionally gender concentrated programs. “We do everything we can to stay away from stereotypes,” he said.
“They noted it (difficult access to VocEd buildings by disabled students), but were happy to see that we already have plans (to fix them) addressed in our bond measure.”
Last March, Gavilan received a $108-million bond measure, $68 million of which is to be used for upgrading existing school facilities.
“I’m really not expecting anything new to come out,” Kinsella said. “But we are going to implement all the recommendations made by the OCR – we can fix all of the problems easily.”
Kinsella had not received word of the March 14 complaint.
“I haven’t received that – I don’t know what that is about. But I’d love to see it.”
Facts on the OCR
• The Office of Civil Rights enforces laws extending to all branches of state education agencies, from elementary through secondary school systems, colleges, vocational and proprietary schools, libraries or museums that receive funding from the Department of Education.
• Discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex or disability in any of the above educational institutions is covered by the OCR.
• Anyone may file a formal complaint with OCR. However, it must be done within 180 calendar days of the alleged discrimination. A prior complaint to the institution is not required by law.