Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

Senate Confirms Catherine Lhamon to Civil Rights Post; Kamala Harris Casts Decisive Vote

By Andrew Ujifusa — October 20, 2021 2 min read
Catherine Lhamon, nominee to be assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education, testifies during a Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Senate has confirmed Catherine Lhamon to lead the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights, one of the most prominent jobs in the federal education bureaucracy.

The Wednesday vote means that Lhamon, as assistant secretary for civil rights, will once again take charge of the office she led during the Obama administration.

Vice President Kamala Harris broke a 50-50 tie in the Senate to seal Lhamon’s confirmation. The Senate education committee’s consideration of her nomination resulted in a tie vote, meaning that an extra procedural step had to take place before her nomination was put to the full Senate for a final vote.

Many education civil rights groups and activists have hailed Lhamon as a champion for students of color and others who are often discriminated against in public schools. Yet her critics say she’s sought to impose “progressive social policy” on schools irrespective of legal and other concerns, with “divisive results.”

During her first tenure under Obama, Lhamon oversaw the office when it helped draft 2016 guidance to schools directing them to allow transgender students to use facilities like restrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender identity.

She also signed off on 2014 guidance that told schools they might be violating federal civil rights law if they had major racial disparities in their discipline decisions.

And her office also issued Title IX guidance about sexual assaults at schools and on college campuses during the Obama administration. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, rescinded that guidance in 2018, stating that the guidance did not sufficiently protect the rights of the accused.

Lhamon, in turn, harshly criticized new Title IX regulations issued by DeVos last year, stating that they wind the clock back to a time “when it was permissible to rape and sexually harass students with impunity.”

That comment as well as Lhamon’s past actions came under intense scrutiny from GOP senators during her July confirmation hearing.

Lhamon’s critics also say that her position on transgender students’ rights, for example, has put biological girls at a disadvantage when it comes to activities like team sports. The Biden administration has asserted that Title IX protects against discrimination on the basis of gender identity as well as sexual orientation.

Lhamon reiterated that position to senators in July. She also said that she would reinstate the Obama-era guidance on racial disparities in school discipline.

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
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.
Sponsor
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

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

Federal What the Federal 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Actually Says
The bill would restrict federal funds for lessons on LGBTQ identities. The outcome of this week's election could revive its prospects.
4 min read
Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol on March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida House Republicans advanced a bill, dubbed by opponents as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, to forbid discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, rejecting criticism from Democrats who said the proposal demonizes LGBTQ people.
Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in Tallahassee on March 7, 2022. Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law was a model for a federal bill introduced last month.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal Fed's Education Research Board Is Back. Here's Why That Matters
Defunct for years, the National Board for Education Sciences has new members and new priorities.
2 min read
Image of a conference table.
vasabii/iStock/Getty
Federal Opinion NAEP Needs to Be Kept at Arm’s Length From Politics
It’s in all our interests to ensure NAEP releases are buffered from political considerations and walled off from political appointees.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal Feds Emphasize Legal Protections for Pregnant or Recently Pregnant Students, Employees
The U.S. Department of Education has released a new resource summary related to pregnancy discrimination in schools.
2 min read
Young girl checking her pregnancy test, sitting on beige couch at home.
iStock/Getty Images Plus