Education Letter to the Editor

Civil Rights Enforcement: ‘Impact’ or ‘Treatment’

March 30, 2010 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

The U.S. Department of Education has promised to use “disparate impact” claims to ramp up its anti-discrimination enforcement (“Duncan Vows Tougher Civil Rights Action”, March 17, 2010). Such claims are brought against practices that lead to politically incorrect racial results, even if the practices are nondiscriminatory by their terms, in their design, and in their application.

Your article quotes me, quite correctly, as arguing that such claims are misguided as a matter of policy. They are not about true discrimination, and they pressure schools either to abandon legitimate practices (for example, in disciplining students) or to adopt surreptitious quotas.

But there’s another problem with disparate-impact claims: The regulations they rely on are themselves illegal. That’s because the underlying statute, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, bans only true discrimination (“disparate treatment”). The U.S. Supreme Court has hinted that these regulations are, therefore, ultra vires, or beyond legal authority.

Here’s hoping that some district will challenge them.

Roger Clegg

President and General Counsel

Center for Equal Opportunity

Falls Church, Va.

A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 2010 edition of Education Week as Civil Rights Enforcement: ‘Impact’ or ‘Treatment’


Student Well-Being Webinar After-School Learning Top Priority: Academics or Fun?
Join our expert panel to discuss how after-school programs and schools can work together to help students recover from pandemic-related learning loss.
Budget & Finance Webinar Leverage New Funding Sources with Data-Informed Practices
Address the whole child using data-informed practices, gain valuable insights, and learn strategies that can benefit your district.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
ChatGPT & Education: 8 Ways AI Improves Student Outcomes
Revolutionize student success! Don't miss our expert-led webinar demonstrating practical ways AI tools will elevate learning experiences.
Content provided by Inzata

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: May 3, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: April 26, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 29, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Quiz Quiz: Test Your Knowledge of Trending Education News
How well do you know the trending news in education? Test your knowledge by taking our quiz.