O.C.R. Chief's Advice Ignored in Title IX Case
Washington--Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell ignored the advice of his department's civil-rights chief when he decided earlier this month to tell the Justice Department not to appeal a controversial court decision restricting the applicability of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Harry M. Singleton, the acting director of the department's office for civil rights (ocr), warned the Secretary in an Aug. 19 memo that failure to appeal the court decision, which involved allegations of sex discrimination in the University of Richmond athletic department, would "jeopardize the ability of ocr to effectively perform its statutory duties."
Mr. Singleton's memo to Mr. Bell was distributed to the public on Sept. 14 during a press conference sponsored by several women's-rights organizations.
If the government accepted the logic behind the court's ruling, Mr. Singleton told the Secretary, "few of the Title VI, Title IX, and Section 504 complaints now handled by ocr would remain within ocr's jurisdiction."
Those federal statutes prohibit the recipients of federal funds from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, and handicap, respectively.
Despite Mr. Singleton's warnings, the federal government's deadline for filing an appeal in the case, University of Richmond v. Bell, passed without action on Sept. 7.
In the Richmond case, U.S. District Judge D. Dortch Warriner, of the Eastern District of Virginia, ruled that ed could not investigate the university's athletic department for compliance with Title IX because the department did not receive specifically earmarked federal assistance.
Judge Warriner also barred ed's civil-rights office from investigating all other educational institutions and their component programs in his jurisdiction absent a prior showing that those entities receive federal aid directly.
In reaching that decision, Mr. Singleton said in his memo, "the court reversed several of the most fundamental principles under which ocr has operated."
Mr. Singleton, whose nomination as full-time director of the civil-rights ofice is now pending before the Senate, also pointed out that Judge Warriner's injunction would affect "virtually every complaint ocr receives and every compliance review ocr may wish to conduct in the eastern half of Virginia."
"In short," he said, "the opinion reaches well beyond the legal question of jurisdiction over intercollegiate athletics and would seek to intrude the district court into the day-to-day workings of" the civil-rights office.--tm