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Monday, June 19, 2017

Memo Outlines Education Dept. Plans to Scale Back Civil-Rights Efforts

From The Chronicle of Higher Education

By Adam Harris
June 15, 2017

The U.S. Department of Education plans to weaken requirements for investigating civil-rights complaints, ProPublica reports.

Candice Jackson, the department’s acting assistant secretary for civil rights, announced the changes in a memo sent to her staff on June 8.

“Effective immediately, there is no mandate that any one type of complaint is automatically treated differently than any other type of complaint with respect to the scope of the investigation, the type or amount of data needed to conduct the investigation, or the amount or type of review or oversight needed over the investigation by headquarters,” she wrote.

This is a shift away from how civil-rights investigations were conducted under the Obama administration, when a single complaint about a complex issue like sexual assault might result in a broader investigation. The department has also proposed cutting more than 40 positions in the civil-rights office.

“This memo is about ensuring every individual complainant gets the care and attention they deserve,” said Elizabeth Hill, a spokeswoman from the Education Department, in an email to The Chronicle. “There is no longer an artificial requirement to collect several years of data when many complaints can be adequately addressed much more efficiently and quickly.”

Catherine E. Lhamon, the department’s civil-rights chief under President Barack Obama, told ProPublica that the changes were “stunning” and “dangerous,” and said they could threaten the department’s mission.

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