Betsy DeVos Will Cut Down On Civil Rights Investigations On Schools

Doug Mills  The New York Times		Education Secretary Betsy De Vos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington earlier this month

Doug Mills The New York Times Education Secretary Betsy De Vos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington earlier this month

The commission cited proposed staff decreases in several departments and agencies as well as the actions of the Justice Department and the Education secretary in its reasons for taking the assessment.

The three-page guidance, signed by acting Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Candice Jackson, says despite the withdrawal of guidance determining Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bars discrimination against transgender students, the administration will rely on Title IX in accordance with court decisions and regulations when "evaluating complaints of sex discrimination against individuals whether or not the individual is transgender".

The instructions, sent to Education Department employees, indicate the Office of Civil Rights "may assert subject matter jurisdiction" over a investigation if the administration deems a school isn't handling allegations of anti-trans discrimination adequately.

Robert Shibley, the executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an advocacy group, said the measures will be welcomed on college campuses where the department has overstepped in carrying out sexual assault investigations.

Groups that advocate for LGBTQ students met with Department of Education officials Friday morning in an off-the-record meeting.

"For 60 years, Congress has charged the Commission to monitor Federal civil rights enforcement and recommend necessary change", says commission chairwoman Catherine E. Lhamon, an Obama appointee.

"It's literally a stick your head in the sand approach", Lhamon concluded.

According to a published settlement agreement, the investigation found that schools with higher percentages of black students established stricter punishment for discipline incidents, and a review of four years of data revealed that black students across the district received disproportionately higher levels of discipline than white students.

"That was quite alarming from a double jeopardy and civil liberties perspective", Shibley said. "So if a student is kept from using the right bathroom, it is illegal Title IX sex discrimination". But she also believes in a limited federal role in education.

Some civil rights advocates immediately assailed the memo as part of an attempt by the Trump administration to whittle away at civil rights enforcement.

The Federalist: Why DeVos Should Rescind Obama's Ban On Disciplining Minority Kids In School - "Last week, after almost 100 days in office, President Trump issued an executive order declaring that "it shall be the policy of the executive branch to protect and preserve State and local control in education.' The order gives Education Secretary Betsy DeVos 300 days to itemize regulations and guidance where the federal government overstepped its bounds". The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the issue. The Trump administration is discontinuing that practice and will not regularly seek to identify "systemic" problems unless a complainant raises or an investigator identifies such concerns, according to Jackson's June 8 memo, first reported by ProPublica. The drive to reduce caseloads and close cases quickly, she said, leads to an "assembly-line justice that does not open its eyes to the kinds of harms that OCR staff know exists in schools". Transgender cases will be investigated by the department "fully and fairly" and will not be dismissed or referred because of a lack of guidance.

The report also notes the Department of Education's proposed budget cuts, including 46 full-time positions cut from its Office for Civil Rights, as well as similar cuts at the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services and Environmental Protection Agency.