Action Alert: Protect Students’ Civil Rights
When Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education, we knew it likely meant the Department of Education would roll back strong enforcement of students’ rights across the country.
Last week, that weakening began. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has announced that it would no longer focus on investigating systemic violations of civil rights laws at publicly funded schools.
Why? Because systemic investigations take too much time.
This is unacceptable. No “civil rights” agency worth its salt would voluntarily give up its most valuable enforcement tool. Systemic investigations into schools’ adherence to laws prohibiting discrimination are essential to keeping students safe and making sure that no one is denied access to an education because of her sex, race, or disability.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, gender-based crimes account for 75 percent of the spike in hate crimes since the election last year. We have seen evidence of this rise in school settings, including in colleges, where 1 in 5 women will be the victim of a sexual assault or attempted assault before she graduates and campus sexual violence affects a shocking 24% of transgender and gender nonconforming students.
Rather than looking at individual cases, one at a time, systemic investigations focus on the big picture. This often uncovers patterns of inequities and leads to schools identifying and changing policies and practices that have an impact on the entire school community. Without these investigations, we lose a powerful means of holding schools accountable for treating students fairly.
We believe upholding the rights of all students is worth the Department of Education’s time. If you agree, sign our letter to Secretary DeVos.
Not a member of the Equal Rights Action Team? Join today to receive timely information on how you can help defend our hard-fought civil rights.
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