emfizz.com August 23, 2017

Commission on Civil Rights to probe Trump administration enforcement

19 June 2017, 03:16 | Gladys Abbott

Aaron Bernstein Reuters U.S. Education Secretary Betsy De Vos testifies in Washington D.C

Aaron Bernstein  Reuters
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy De Vos testifies in Washington D.C

"But DeVos would need little more than a minute to rescind perhaps the single most destructive action taken by the Obama Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights: "federal 'guidance" on school discipline".

An independent, bipartisan federal commission tasked with advising President Donald Trump and Congress on civil-rights issues approved a two-year investigation that will examine how the Trump administration's "current budgets and staffing levels allow civil rights offices to perform", NBC News reported Friday.

That would suggest the Department of Education is repositioning itself in the Trump administration against anti-trans discrimination in schools.

The Obama administration's guidance said that anti-transgender bias was covered by laws against gender bias, and thus opened the way for investigations into such discrimination.

Candice Jackson, acting head of the civil rights office, said she sent the memo to clarify that transgender students may still have valid discrimination complaints even though the Trump administration withdrew guidance specifying that they have a right under federal law to use school bathroom and locker room facilities corresponding to their gender identity.

An employee familiar with the guidance ― which was obtained by HuffPost and can be read in full below ― says he interprets this to mean that officials should investigate issues of discrimination just as they would have before the Obama-era rules were implemented. The Trump administration rescinded that guidance in February. Jackson also states that OCR's goal is to swiftly address compliance issues raised by individual complaints, reach reasonable resolution agreements directly responsive to addressing the concerns raised in the individual complaint being resolved, and to encourage voluntary settlements whenever possible. The document notably does not mention access to bathrooms matching a student's gender identity as among the types of complaints officials should investigate, she said. But critics of the Trump administration considered the narrowing of some investigations as another example of an effort to narrow civil rights enforcement. The Trump administration has previously argued that transgender students' restroom access is a decision best left up to individual states. "That guidance provided clarity to schools, as well as to transgender students and their families".

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Additionally, an investigation could be had if there is failure to assess whether sexual harassment or gender-based harassment of a "transgender student created a hostile environment".

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.

"These new instructions from the Department of Education are far from clear, and federal court rulings are increasingly on the side of transgender students", Esseks added, implying that the organization may pursue further lawsuits to challenge the new guidance. Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit became the first federal appellate court to affirm that Title IX affords transgender students that right.

For the American Civil Liberties Union, the law remains clear following several favorable court decisions finding that discrimination against transgender students - including their ability to access restrooms consistent with their gender identity - violates either their rights under Title IX, or, at the very least, their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the department is hinting that they will not enforce the law.

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