Education Dept.’s Next Move–Rescind Students’ Civil Rights Protections (Video)

Upon assuming her role as the nation’s education advocate, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos decided to rescind support requiring the U.S. Education Department to investigate loan servicing companies’ past conduct before the government awards lucrative contracts. Interestingly, these are the very companies in which DeVos and her family have vested business interests.

Then she reversed former President Barack Obama’s directive requiring schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms that conform to their gender identities.

She also scrapped Obama-era guidelines on investigating college and university campus sexual assault.

Last month went 72 policy documents outlining disabled students’ rights codified under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act (IDEA).

Next to be DeVos-tated are students’ civil rights.

Current policy states if the government receives a civil rights complaint about a school, the Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) investigates that incident plus any systemic problems that might lead to similar, recurring, or residual incidents.

But it’s the word “systemic” DeVos finds problematic.

Behind the decision seems to be the same behind most Trump administration decisions: Obama put it there, so let’s get rid of it.

Obama’s Education Department began investigating systemic civil rights abuses in America’s schools.

Some, though, complained it slowed down complaint resolutions.

Commenting that processing time grew under Obama, Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said:

“Justice delayed is justice denied, and justice for many complainants has been denied for too long.”

But critics of Betsy DeVos’ approach argue that although changing this would provide schools more control over cases, students and parents would be virtually excluded from the process.

Schools dealing with complaints would have the authority to negotiate resolutions with the Education Department  before parents or students are even informed of findings.

Seth Galanter, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Rights during the Obama administration, said:

“The letter may still reach the same result, but it may be completely diluted of any fact that would inform the parent and the community about what’s going on in the school.”

According to a piece in the Washington Post:

“Galanter gave an example of a complaint stemming from a white and a minority student getting into a fight, but the minority student being disciplined more harshly than the white student. Under the previous procedure, OCR (Office for Civil Rights) would examine that particular case but also look at whether that teacher, school or school district was engaging in other similar discriminatory behavior.”

Galanter added:

“It’s a very surface level fix that certainly will make that particular parent happy, but isn’t fulfilling OCR’s obligation. OCR is underfunded and understaffed and in order to get through all the complaints in some kind of timely manner, staff is being forced to give them superficial treatment.”

Interestingly, 40 out of 570 Office of Civil Rights positions are facing potential cuts under Trump.

In a statement, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said:

“I will continue to work to give the Department the resources it needs to better aid students and families, and I strongly urge Secretary DeVos to stop putting her ideological agenda above students and work with us.”

Earlier this month, there was a rumor going around DeVos was considering resigning.

Should we hold our breath?

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Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.