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Education Dept. Says It Will Scale Back Civil Rights Investigations

Posted by on Jun. 19, 2017 at 9:23 AM
  • 20 Replies

WASHINGTON — The Department of Education is scaling back investigations into civil rights violations at the nation’s public schools and universities, easing off mandates imposed by the Obama administration that the new leadership says have bogged down the agency.

According to an internal memo issued by Candice E. Jackson, the acting head of the department’s office for civil rights, requirements that investigators broaden their inquiries to identify systemic issues and whole classes of victims will be scaled back. Also, regional offices will no longer be required to alert department officials in Washington of all highly sensitive complaints on issues such as the disproportionate disciplining of minority students and the mishandling of sexual assaults on college campuses.

The new directives are the first steps taken under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to reshape her agency’s approach to civil rights enforcement, which was bolstered while President Barack Obama was in office. The efforts during Mr. Obama’s administration resulted in far-reaching investigations and resolutions that required schools and colleges to overhaul policies addressing a number of civil rights concerns.

That approach sent complaints soaring, and the civil rights office found itself understaffed and struggling to meet the department’s stated goal of closing cases within 180 days.

The office’s processing times have “skyrocketed,” the Education Department spokeswoman, Liz Hill, said, adding that its backlog of cases has “exploded.” The new guidelines were to ensure that “every individual complainant gets the care and attention they deserve,” she said.

In the memo, which was first published by ProPublica, Ms. Jackson emphasized that the new protocols were aimed at resolving cases quickly.

“Justice delayed is justice denied, and justice for many complainants has been denied for too long,” Ms. Hill said in a statement.

But civil rights leaders believe that the new directives will have the opposite effect. They say that Education Department staff members would be discouraged from opening cases and that investigations could be weakened because efficiency would take priority over thoroughness.

“If we want to have assembly-line justice, and I say ‘justice’ in quotes, then that’s the direction that we should go,” said Catherine Lhamon, who was the assistant secretary of the Education Department’s civil rights office under Mr. Obama, and who now heads the United States Commission on Civil Rights.


The commission — an independent, bipartisan agency charged with advising the president and Congress on matters of civil rights — voted on Friday to conduct a two-year investigation of federal civil rights enforcement, saying it had “grave concerns” about the Trump administration’s agenda. The commission identified the Education Department as an agency that was particularly troubling.

Nevertheless, the department’s move was lauded by advocates who believe that the office for civil rights has been overzealous in its enforcement activities in recent years.

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. The organization is financially supporting a lawsuit against the department over a letter issued in 2011 directing campuses to change the burden of proof in cases of sexual assault.

“So many of the campus hearings are kangaroo courts with low due process, and you can’t really have any confidence in the outcomes,” Mr. Shibley said.

Both sides of the civil rights issue keyed on the department’s decision to reverse its practice of automatically broadening investigations and scrutinizing years of data, searching for patterns of violations.

The practice of systematic reviews, which Ms. Lhamon supported while leading the civil rights office, uncovered significant evidence of discrimination in school districts.

“It’s really a way of curtailing the way civil rights enforcement should be handled,” Ms. Lhamon said, reacting to the department’s new direction. “It’s literally a stick your head in the sand approach.”

For example, the department received a complaint that a black student at the Lodi Unified School District in California, about an hour south of Sacramento, received harsher punishment than a white student after the two were in a fight.

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.

But Mr. Shibley said the practice of systematic reviews was a significant burden, especially on colleges and universities, which sometimes had to review years of previous sexual assault complaints, and remedy anything they were found to have mishandled.

“That was quite alarming from a double jeopardy and civil liberties perspective,” Mr. Shibley said.

Since her appointment as the education secretary, Ms. DeVos has come under fire from lawmakers and civil rights advocates for her remarks about the department’s role in enforcing civil rights laws in the public school system.

The office is charged with enforcing legal prohibitions against discrimination by race, color, national origin, sex and disability.

Ms. DeVos has denounced discrimination in any form and has said schools that receive federal funds must follow federal laws. But she also believes in a limited federal role in education. She has signaled that her office is “not going to be issuing any decrees” on civil rights and that those should come from Congress or the courts.

In the memo issued last week, Ms. Jackson wrote that the department would “robustly enforce the civil rights laws under our jurisdiction, and we will do so in a neutral, impartial manner and as efficiently as possible.”

Ms. Jackson issued another internal memo last week about how her office would respond to cases of discrimination after the rollback of Obama administration rules that encouraged states to allow transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity.

Ms. Hill, the department spokeswoman, declined to release the internal document, but said it guides staff members on how to “functionally execute on these cases.” Transgender cases will be investigated by the department “fully and fairly” and will not be dismissed or referred because of a lack of guidance.

However, the office has indicated that it will also be more judicious in tackling complaints in general.

In the administration’s budget request for the fiscal year that begins in October, the Education Department has proposed cutting more than 40 staff positions from the office for civil rights, which would require the office to “make difficult choices, including cutting back on initiating proactive investigations,” the department wrote.


by on Jun. 19, 2017 at 9:23 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Luvnlogic
by Platinum Member on Jun. 19, 2017 at 9:44 AM
3 moms liked this
Oh lort...yes, investigations will close more quickly if you scale back on how many complaints you take. But that doesn't really address the root of the issues, does it. 😡😡
LGAll65215
by on Jun. 19, 2017 at 9:46 AM
🙄
cynnie22
by Silver Member on Jun. 19, 2017 at 10:06 AM
1 mom liked this

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/civil-rights-commission-will-launch-two-year-probe-trump-administration-n773541

 an independent federal agency commissioned under Congress also said “grave concerns” were prompting an investigation into federal civil rights enforcement within his administration.

The United States Commission on Civil Rights, a bipartisan agency charged with advising the president and Congress on civil rights matters, unanimously approved a comprehensive two-year probe into the “degree to which current budgets and staffing levels allow civil rights offices to perform” their functions within the administration, said the agency in a statement.


The federal watchdog group became concerned about the Trump administration after several agencies announced budget and personnel cuts in departments that oversee civil rights. The "proposed cuts would result in a dangerous reduction of civil rights enforcement across the country, leaving communities of color, LGBT people, older people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups exposed to greater risk of discrimination," said the statement.

cynnie22
by Silver Member on Jun. 19, 2017 at 10:10 AM
3 moms liked this

Trump is under investigation regarding civil rights

Trump is under investigation for Obstruction of Justice

Dems in Congress are filing an emoluments lawsuit against Trump

A Restaurant group has filed an unfair competition lawsuit against Trump.


Well, it's a good think Trump is family with lawsuits.  I believe he has something like 3,500+pending lawsuits when he took office.

Bookwormy
by Ruby Member on Jun. 19, 2017 at 10:50 AM
More depressing.

Quoting cynnie22:

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/civil-rights-commission-will-launch-two-year-probe-trump-administration-n773541

 an independent federal agency commissioned under Congress also said “grave concerns” were prompting an investigation into federal civil rights enforcement within his administration.

The United States Commission on Civil Rights, a bipartisan agency charged with advising the president and Congress on civil rights matters, unanimously approved a comprehensive two-year probe into the “degree to which current budgets and staffing levels allow civil rights offices to perform” their functions within the administration, said the agency in a statement.

The federal watchdog group became concerned about the Trump administration after several agencies announced budget and personnel cuts in departments that oversee civil rights. The "proposed cuts would result in a dangerous reduction of civil rights enforcement across the country, leaving communities of color, LGBT people, older people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups exposed to greater risk of discrimination," said the statement.

Bookwormy
by Ruby Member on Jun. 19, 2017 at 10:51 AM
1 mom liked this
D.C. & Maryland have filed emoluments lawsuits.

Quoting cynnie22:

Trump is under investigation regarding civil rights

Trump is under investigation for Obstruction of Justice

Dems in Congress are filing an emoluments lawsuit against Trump

A Restaurant group has filed an unfair competition lawsuit against Trump.

Well, it's a good think Trump is family with lawsuits.  I believe he has something like 3,500+pending lawsuits when he took office.

numbr1wmn
by Lina on Jun. 19, 2017 at 10:51 AM
1 mom liked this

There are laws against discrimination and that sticks.  But they need to weed out the frivolous law suits too.

cynnie22
by Silver Member on Jun. 19, 2017 at 12:30 PM
2 moms liked this

Hopefully these investigations and lawsuits keep him so busy he is unable to harm America or Americans anymore than he already has.

Quoting Bookwormy: D.C. & Maryland have filed emoluments lawsuits.
Quoting cynnie22:

Trump is under investigation regarding civil rights

Trump is under investigation for Obstruction of Justice

Dems in Congress are filing an emoluments lawsuit against Trump

A Restaurant group has filed an unfair competition lawsuit against Trump.


Well, it's a good think Trump is family with lawsuits.  I believe he has something like 3,500+pending lawsuits when he took office.


Sparkles4Lui
by Platinum Member on Jun. 19, 2017 at 1:01 PM
Keep acting one way and when the political pendulum swings the other way,don't get mad. Christians would do well to understand their numbers are decreasing, people in the US are foregoing all religion, and people who follow other religions are rising.

It will come back on you. Karma doesn't fail.
cynnie22
by Silver Member on Jun. 19, 2017 at 1:10 PM
1 mom liked this

I'm not quite following you here.  What does this have to do with the article?


Quoting Sparkles4Lui: Keep acting one way and when the political pendulum swings the other way,don't get mad. Christians would do well to understand their numbers are decreasing, people in the US are foregoing all religion, and people who follow other religions are rising. It will come back on you. Karma doesn't fail.


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