Section 30: Civil Rights Responsibilities

Civil Rights Responsibilities of Penn State Extension Volunteers.

Section 30: Civil Rights Responsibilities

Section 30: Civil Rights Responsibilities


The principles of inclusion and diversity are core values in the College of Agriculture Sciences, the home of Penn State Extension. We respect differences in people, ideas, programs, and partnerships. For Penn State Extension, these values guide the development and delivery of our educational programming efforts. Civil rights legislation simply reinforces those values.

Not only do Civil Rights laws affect Extension in the development and implementation of educational programs, but it also affects us as an employer. Extension must consider all employment activities according to non-discrimination guidelines. This includes our recruitment and partnership with volunteers.

Penn State Extension Civil Rights goals are to expand access to educational programs to people from traditionally under-represented groups and also to promote nondiscrimination and value differences among staff, clients, volunteers, and partners. As a non-paid staff member of Penn State Extension, you can help us achieve these goals.

In order to meet those goals, all of us in Extension have responsibilities. That includes Extension educators and specialists, program and administrative assistants, volunteers and Penn State Extension-sponsored volunteer groups, faculty, staff and administrators at all Penn State facilities. It does not matter if an employee’s funding is entirely from local sources or from state or federal sources.

Volunteers are also involved in educational delivery and thus have some of the same responsibilities as paid staff, but they work under the direction of extension educators and extension program associates and assistants. In fact, a volunteer’s understanding of the significance of, and compliance with, our civil rights responsibilities, starts when a volunteer completes and signs a volunteer enrollment form. In that document the volunteer indicates that they understand that Penn State Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

This guideline is designed to help you understand the policies and procedures that relate to our civil rights responsibilities. Now that you have a better understanding of the basis for Extension’s civil rights responsibilities, you need to be familiar with some key civil rights terms and concepts. These terms and concepts will help you understand your specific responsibilities as a Penn State Extension volunteer.

Terms and Concepts

Equal Opportunity

Equal Opportunity is a situation in which people have the same opportunities in life as other people, without being treated in an unfair way because of any personal characteristics such as race, age, gender, religion, etc. For Penn State Extension this equates to our core value that employment, and educational programs and services, are open to all. It is directly tied to the Title VI, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

What it means for you as a volunteer is that in your dealings with the public, we cannot deny anyone access to Extension programs, services, or membership in clubs, based on any personal characteristics they have such as race, gender, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and other differences that have been mentioned earlier.


Another, less well-known term, is Parity. Sometimes it is referred to as “balanced participation” or “balanced membership.” An Extension program is in parity when the participation of people in minority groups in that program, reflects the proportionate representation of those groups in the population of the potential audience. In other words, if 5% of the participants in a county master gardener program are African American, and if 5% of your county population is African American, your program is at 100% parity. For Extension purposes, a program is considered “in-compliance” when participation has reached 80% of parity.

You can calculate parity by taking the % minority representation in your program divided by the % minority representation in your county’s population multiplied by 100. So…if a county-wide 4-H club has 10% Hispanic participants and your county has a 20% Hispanic population, your 4-H club is at 50% of parity.

Because the level of parity is less than 80%, efforts will need to be made to raise the parity percentage in order to be in compliance with civil rights laws. Determination if your club or volunteer-led programming efforts are in parity and taking efforts to get in parity, will be done in cooperation with your Extension educator or extension program assistant or associate.

Who makes up your potential audience? Your potential audience is persons or groups in a defined geographic area. Usually in Extension we look at geographic areas at the county or city level, but the area could also be defined at a multi-county, district or state level. U.S. Census data is most often used to determine the potential audience make-up. Your Extension educator or extension program associate/ assistant should work with you to help you determine the demographic make-up of the potential audience for your volunteer-led program efforts.

Civil Rights laws require that we use “All Reasonable Efforts” to achieve balanced participation and membership according to the potential audience. However, since parity cannot be guaranteed in advance of programming, it is important to make "all reasonable effort“ in all of our programming efforts. What constitutes all reasonable efforts?

All Reasonable Efforts

All Reasonable Efforts are a combination of actions, such as use of mass media and personal visits that are designed to communicate to all persons that Penn State Extension program participation and Penn State Extension-sponsored club membership are open and that all are welcome and encouraged to become members or participate in educational programs. Your Extension educator will work with you to be sure your Penn State Extension club or program is taking the appropriate efforts to meet the “All Reasonable Effort” standard.

Contacts and Documentation

An important part of your civil rights responsibilities as a volunteer is collecting contacts. A contact occurs anytime Extension educational information is shared with the public. Contacts can occur face-to-face at workshops or club meetings, over the phone, by email, through newsletters and Extension publications.

Examples of when you would collect contacts as a volunteer include: attendance at a 4-H club meeting; clientele participation in a workshop offered by Strong Women; individuals assisted by a Master Gardener phone hotline; and a master food volunteer helping a client learn how to can vegetables. Contacts are not enrollment information. Instead, a contact occurs anytime educational information is passed on from a paid or unpaid staff member to a client.

The best way to learn about contacts collection and reporting is probably through a conversation with your Extension educator or program associate/assistant. Because contacts collection and reporting is so central to our civil rights compliance expectations, it is critical that everyone, including volunteers, understands and takes this responsibility seriously.

The contacts you collect need to be reported to your Extension agent or program assistant on a regular basis, ideally every month, but consult with them to determine what they prefer. They will add your contacts to those of other volunteers, and their own. Contacts, besides being extremely useful to assess how we are doing in making our programs accessible to everyone, also provides valuable data that is provided to local, state and federal stakeholders.

We are required to document for each specific Penn State Extension sponsored organization or club whether they have balanced membership, and if not, the all reasonable efforts that the organization or club took to try to be in parity. If a club or organization is not in parity, then documentation should be provided as evidence of the all reasonable efforts that were taken to work towards balanced membership. Extension educators and other staff should work with volunteers to meet this expectation.

Non-Discrimination Statements

Most often, when you want to publicize Extension programs or club meetings via flyers, newsletters, news releases, etc. you will do so with the assistance of the faculty and staff in your extension office. However, if you create documents on your own that are used with the public for your Extension effort or club, you need to know there are civil rights responsibilities that apply to these documents.

They are described as Non-Discrimination statements, since a component of our Civil Rights compliance requirements is to notify the public that Extension is open to all, including those individuals with disabilities. Thus we are required to apply our non-discrimination language to publications, announcements, newsletters, news releases, letterhead documents, etc. Essentially any documents targeted to the public. This requirement to use the non-discrimination statements applies to all Extension faculty, staff, and volunteers.

There are two distinct civil rights non-discrimination statements. The first is called the Equal Employment Opportunity or EEO statement. It states, “Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workforce.”

The second non-discrimination statement is the ADA statement. It must be used in all methods of promotion, including written, verbal and electronic for workshops, events, seminars, classes, organizational meetings, etc. There is a slightly different ADA statement that is used when publicizing Extension services.

You should always consult with your extension educator, program associate/assistant or administrative support staff person about the use of these statements when developing Extension documents that are to be distributed to the public.

In Review

In review, the objectives of this module were to make you better informed about your civil rights compliance responsibilities as a Penn State Extension volunteer. The key points are:

  • Federal Civil Rights laws form the basis for Extension’s civil rights responsibilities,
  • Penn State Extension, College of Agriculture Sciences, Penn State University all consider inclusion and appreciation of differences as core values,
  • All paid and non-paid Extension staff have civil rights responsibilities,
  • Our programs and services are non-discriminatory,
  • Penn State Extension sponsored groups and clubs must strive for balanced membership or parity,
  • The test for parity drives our All Reasonable Efforts,
  • Contacts collection is a critical means of determining if our programs are non-discriminatory,
  • And, non-discrimination statements must accompany all public documents.

Please consult with your Extension educator or other Extension professional in you have any questions about this information.

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Section 30: Civil Rights Responsibilities


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