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 Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, rescinded that guidance in 2018, stating that the guidance did not sufficiently protect the rights of the accused.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

Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

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 'Parents' Bill of Rights' Underscores Furor Over Curriculum and Transparency in Schools
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley's bill highlights how education issues like critical race theory will likely stay in the national political spotlight.
7 min read
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., says "it's time to give control back to parents, not woke bureaucrats."
Patrick Semansky/AP
Federal Opinion It’s Not Just the NSBA That’s Out of Touch. There’s a Bigger Problem
Those who influence educational policy or practice would do well to care about what parents and the public actually want.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal Dept. of Ed., Florida Continue to Battle Over Ban on School Mask Mandates
Federal officials say they’ll intervene if the Florida Dept. of Ed. goes ahead with sanctions on districts with mask mandates.
Ana Ceballos, Miami Herald
2 min read
Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran speaks alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, rear right, Fla. Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., left, state legislators, parents and educators, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran speaks alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, rear right, Fla. Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., left, state legislators, parents and educators, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal National School Board Group's Apology for 'Domestic Terrorism' Letter May Not Quell Uproar
The National School Boards Association voices "regret" for how it sought federal aid to address threats and harassment of school officials.
4 min read
Seminole County, Fla., deputies remove parent Chris Mink of Apopka from an emergency meeting of the Seminole County School Board in Sanford, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. Mink, the parent of a Bear Lake Elementary School student, opposes a call for mask mandates for Seminole schools and was escorted out for shouting during the standing-room only meeting.
Deputies remove a parent from an emergency meeting of the Seminole County School Board in Sanford, Fla., after the parent, who opposes a call for mask mandates for Seminole schools, shouts during the standing-room only meeting.
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP