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Department of Education May Limit Scope of Civil Rights Investigations

Under current guidelines, civil rights investigations focus on both the individual complaint and the possibility of a systemic problem.

Department of Education May Limit Scope of Civil Rights Investigations

Opponents say limiting the scope will allow for the continuation of widespread behavior that leads to civil rights violations.

The U.S. Department of Education is considering narrowing the scope of civil rights investigations at schools and universities.

Under current guidelines, which were established under the Obama administration, investigations into discrimination complaints focus on both the individual complaint and the possibility of a “systemic” or larger problem within the institution that may have led to the discrimination.

A document with proposed revisions, which was obtained by The Associated Press, was distributed last week to civil rights officials at the department and the word “systemic” was removed from the guidelines, reports The Washington Post. The final version of the policy will be published next year.

The proposed changes would give schools more power in how it decides to handle discrimination cases and would eliminate the appeals process.

Those who opposed the Obama-era guidelines say investigations of possible systemic discrimination led to slower resolutions of complaints.

“Justice delayed is justice denied, and justice for many complainants has been denied for too long,” says Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill.

Discrimination advocates say the change could allow for the continuation of the same widespread behaviors that lead to civil rights investigations.

Seth Galanter, former principal deputy assistant secretary for human rights during Obama’s administration, says the proposed changes are counterintuitive to the civil rights office’s key mission of identifying and fixing systemic problems.

Another proposed change would allow the Office for Civil Rights to negotiate agreements with schools or school districts before releasing the findings to parents in a letter, according to The Hill.

“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,” Galanter said.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration called for a $9 billion budget cut for the department. If implemented, these cuts would result in the termination of approximately 40 civil rights employees.

About the Author

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Amy Rock is the Campus Safety Web Editor. She graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a minor in Education.

She has worked in the publishing industry since 2011, in both events and digital marketing.

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