President Trump’s Education Department intends to ignore most of the civil rights complaints it receives because it feels overwhelmed by the heavy volume. By Contrast, the Obama administration reviewed a record number of cases.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos approved new guidance, which took effect in March, that permits civil rights investigators in her department to disregard cases.
This directive, which also eliminated the appeals process, comes under the guise of efficiency. According to DeVos, the under-staffed department receives a flood of complaints about the same subject matter, .
However, Congress allocated an additional $8.5 million in funding to the department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to manage the caseload after the directive took effect, the newspaper stated, adding that DeVos has long had an eye focused on cutbacks to the civil rights office.
President Barack Obama’s education department reviewed 10,392 complaints in 2016. The administration opened more than 3,000 investigations from those complaints of bias that were based on race, national origin, gender or disability. The department resolved more than 1,000 of those cases.
Civil rights groups are alarmed. The department’s new policy is “yet another avenue for O.C.R. to not seriously investigate systemic race discrimination,” Rachel M. Kleinman, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, told the New York Times . Filing complaints were a main tool in the battle to eliminate racial bias in school districts across the nation.
DeVos’ directive undermines the civil rights office’s mission, said Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the department’s OCR division during the Obama administration. Unlike the Department of Justice, investigators in the education department do not have the right to pick and choose which cases to pursue, she added.
The department has offered no guidance to advocates regarding how investigators will determine which complaints they will review. Consequently, it appears they have a free hand to ignore discrimination.
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