Education Dept Makes Big Change to Civil Rights Investigations

An internal memo rolls back Obama-era mandates
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2017 12:34 PM CDT

(Newser) – Under new head Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education will be easing up on investigations into civil rights complaints—investigations that were greatly expanded under President Obama, the New York Times reports. According to ProPublica, new guidelines were issued in a June 8 internal memo to replace Obama-era mandates. Under Obama, certain complaints—such as colleges mishandling sexual assaults or racial disparities in discipline at schools—would automatically trigger an expanded investigation to look for patterns and broader problems. These larger investigations led to new policies centered on civil rights at public schools and universities.

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But a Department of Education spokesperson says under the Obama mandates, the time it took to close cases "skyrocketed" and the backlog of cases "exploded." She says the goal now is to speed up the process to give "every complaint the individualized and thorough consideration it deserves." Under the new guidelines, local officers will have the freedom to decide whether or not to pursue complaints—a second memo specifically highlights complaints regarding transgender students—and certain types of complaints will no longer trigger a broader investigation, the Los Angeles Times reports. A former head of the Department of Education's civil rights office calls the new guidelines "stunning ... and dangerous." (Read more Department of Education stories.)

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