Federal News in Brief

Annual Civil Rights Complaints to Ed. Dept. Double Since 2008

By Andrew Ujifusa — December 13, 2016 1 min read

The number of annual complaints to the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights more than doubled since the start of President Barack Obama’s administration, increasing from 6,364 in fiscal 2009 to 16,720 in fiscal 2016.

A report last week by the Education Department also notes the ongoing civil rights issues the department sees in schools, ranging from teacher and staffing inequities to chronic absenteeism and racial disparities in school discipline policies.

The office has attracted a lot of friends and critics in the Obama years, and it might be about to undergo a major shift under the Trump administration.

“Securing Equal Educational Opportunity” highlights data-collection findings, including that:

• Black preschool children are 3.6 times more likely to get one or more out-of-school suspensions as white preschool children;

• Over 3 million high school students, or 19 percent, are chronically absent;• Students of color are more likely than white students to be in schools where over 20 percent of teachers are in their first year on the job.

The office also reported that during the eight years of the Obama administration, the office received 76,000 complaints and resolved 66,000 of them. In addition, the department says it’s monitored 2,000 resolved cases annually to ensure compliance.

The report also examines the nature of complaints it received under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (which bars discrimination based on race or national origin) and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination. Some critics say the office’s approach to racial disparities in school discipline intrudes too much on classroom and school operations. Republican members of Congress and others have been highly critical of the department’s guidance to school districts regarding the rights of transgender students.

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A version of this article appeared in the December 14, 2016 edition of Education Week as Annual Civil Rights Complaints to Ed. Dept. Double Since 2008

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