Monday, February 27, 2017

Secretary DeVos: Don't Forget About Civil Rights

Like many civil rights advocates, Derek Black, a law professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, predicts that the Trump Administration will try to aggressively scale back enforcement of civil rights in public schools. Read "Law Professor: Expect Big Rollback of Civil Rights Enforcement in Education Under Trump and DeVos" from the Washington Post.

Furthering that concern are suggestions that the new head of the department's Office of Civil Rights may be Gail Heriot, who in the past has been critical of the office for taking too strong a stance on enforcement. (And who once likened transgender students to people who want to believe they are Russian princesses.)

More than 60 civil rights groups have written to Secretary Betsy DeVos urging her to appoint a head of the Office of Civil Rights who has experience fighting discrimination against marginalized students. In other words, someone who's qualified.

In the letter, the groups say:
"Every child has the right to attend a public school that is warm, welcoming, rigorous, and that prepares them for success in life Our bedrock civil rights laws, made meaningful through enforcement and oversight, stand guard to protect that right and ensure equal educational opportunity....The selection of an individual to lead the Office of Civil Rights is one of the most significant decisions you and the president will make with regard to the civil rights of the nation's students....The assistant secretary should have a track record of experience with a range of civil rights issues, have experience with and be committed to remedying individual and systemic discrimination, be prepared to follow wherever the law and the facts lead, and believe that every student in kindergarten through 12th grade has the right to be in school every day and be treated with dignity without the burden of discrimination." Read the full letter.

Here's who signed the letter. If you agree, let the secretary's office know at 202-401-3000.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
National Women's Law Center
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
MALDEF
American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
American Civil Liberties Union
The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
American Federation of Teachers
American Jewish Committee (AJC)
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Anti-Defamation League
The Arc of the United States
Association of University Centers on Disabilities
Augustus F. Hawkins Foundation
Coalition for Disability Health Equity
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
Education Law Center-PA
Equal Rights Advocates
GLSEN
Human Rights Campaign
International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies (IAOHRA)
Japanese American Citizens League
Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
League of United Latin American Citizens
NAACP
National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE)
National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
National Association of Human Rights Workers
National Bar Association
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Learning Disabilities
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Congress of American Indians
National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of La Raza
National Down Syndrome Congress
National Education Association
National Employment Law Project
National Indian Education Association
National LGBTQ Task Force
National Organization for Women
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Urban League
OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates
People For the American Way
PolicyLink
Poverty & Race Research Action Council
SEIU
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
Southern Poverty Law Center
TASH
Woodhull Freedom Foundation
World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law

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