The NAACP is suing Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education for their blatant disregard for civil rights.
“Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education have determined that civil rights no longer matter,” Malik Russell, a spokesperson for the NAACP, told The Root.
The lawsuit is in response to new guidelines for the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR will now dismiss any complaint that is “a continuation of a pattern of complaints previously filed with OCR by an individual or group against multiple recipients or a complaint(s) is filed for the first time against multiple recipients that, viewed as a whole, places an unreasonable burden on OCR’s resources.” The rules also eliminate the appeals process — the appeals section was removed from the guidelines entirely.
As the lawsuit emphasizes, under the new rules, “dismissal is mandatory” — not optional — in these instances, even if previous complaints were found justified.
The NAACP, National Federation of the Blind and Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates are all named as plaintiffs in the suit. Candice Jackson, acting assistant secretary for the OCR, is also a defendant.
The lawsuit points out that the new provisions target the very groups the OCR is ideally designed to help — those who are most vulnerable to discrimination and who may not have the means to file complaints on their own:
This new restriction affects both individuals who have been subjected to more than one incident of illegal discrimination and organizations that represent individuals who cannot afford to bring claims on their own. The latter groups often submit claims over time for multiple individuals against multiple recipients.
The Education Department made these changes without giving any notice to the public, not giving anyone a chance to comment on the changes — a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
The Education Department has already dismissed hundreds of complaints as a result of the new rules — in addition to dismissing 58 percent of its complaints in fiscal year 2016.
The OCR also received an $8.5 million increase in its budget for FY 2018 — meaning more money for resources to address additional complaints.
In May, DeVos was criticized for having zero knowledge about the Office of Civil Rights, not even being familiar with its mission statement.
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) challenged DeVos to state the OCR’s mission statement, to which DeVos gave a generic response.
“The Office for Civil Rights is committed to protecting the civil rights as determined under the law of this land, and we do so proudly and with great focus each day,” she said.
“That’s not the mission statement. Do you know what it is” Fudge questioned.
“I have not memorized the mission statement,” DeVos admitted.
Per its webpage: “OCR’s mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence through vigorous enforcement of civil rights in our nation’s schools.”