Shaheen, Hassan Join Senate Democrats to Call Out Secretary DeVos for Harmful Actions on Civil Rights Protections, Enforcement
Senators highlight numerous steps taken by Secretary DeVos to roll back civil rights enforcement and protections for students
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined 33 Senators today in sending a letter to Secretary DeVos citing major concerns with steps the U.S. Department of Education has taken under her leadership to diminish civil rights enforcement for students across the country. The Senators highlight a number of alarming steps Secretary DeVos has taken, including hosting events with anti-LGBTQ hate groups, proposing to slash the budget of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and scaling back OCR’s civil rights enforcements, among others.
“Your testimony in front of Congress, your continued association with groups with records of supporting discrimination, and two memos written by the Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, have reemphasized longstanding concerns about your dedication to the idea that all students, no matter their race, religion, disability, country of origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, have a right to receive an education free from discrimination,” wrote the Senators.
In the letter the Senators continued to press DeVos on her failure to protect transgender students.
“We are also extremely disappointed in the Department’s failure to take actions to protect transgender students. More than a third of transgender students report being the subject of harassment or bullying in school, sixty percent of transgender youth report being forced to use bathrooms inconsistent with their gender identity, and half of transgender children have seriously contemplated suicide. Despite these shocking statistics, on February 22, 2017, the Department withdrew joint guidance on transgender students’ rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”).
On March 10, six Senators wrote you expressing outrage at that decision and asking how you intend to enforce civil rights protections for transgender students. While you have not yet answered that letter, recent steps by the Department suggest you will not act to protect transgender students. In fact, the Department has already abandoned its defense of some students who have experienced discrimination or harassment by dismissing or closing at least two cases involving transgender students and withdrawing previous findings of discrimination against the school districts. ”
The Senators are also demanding answers to open cases and policy changes within the Department of Education.
“In order to fully understand the impact of recent policy and civil rights investigatory and enforcement changes at the Department and the Office of Civil Rights, please provide the following information and documents by July 11, 2017:
- A list of all open OCR cases involving a transgender student as of January 30, 2017, disaggregated by the nature of the complaint, and the current status of each of these cases.
- A list of all open OCR cases involving sexual assault or sexual harassment as of January 30, 2017 and the current status of those cases.
- A list of all cases OCR has closed or dismissed between January 1, 2017, and today, and the specific reason each case was closed.
- A complete, un-redacted copy of the manual used by investigators.
- An explanation of how the Department intends to ensure that OCR investigators are making determinations about transgender students’ rights based on binding legal precedent in their region.
- An answer as to whether the Department will continue to post all resolution agreements online.
- Any and all memoranda, analyses, or other communications discussing the rationale for, and impact of, policy changes affecting civil rights enforcement by the Department.
- Any and all memoranda, analyses, or other communications discussing the rationale for, and impact of, proposed budget cuts in OCR.
- A list of all metrics that will be used by the Department to assess effectiveness of civil rights enforcement.
There is no more serious responsibility of the Department than to ensure consistent, vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws and protections for all students.”
Due to the disturbing actions of the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has opened a multi-agency investigation into whether the Trump Administration’s proposed budgets, staffing cuts, and policy priorities have increased the risk of discrimination.
The full letter is attached below.062717 - Betsy DeVos ED Office of Civil Rights (OCR)