The NAACP has filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education and Education Secretary Betsy De Vos for abandoning civil-rights-enforcement regulations and dismissing hundreds of complaints.
Joining in the suit are the National Federation of the Blind and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates.
The Department of Education recently enacted a new manual that allows for its Office for Civil Rights to dismiss complaints if they represent “a pattern of complaints previously filed with O.C.R. by an individual or a group against multiple recipients,” or complaints “filed for the first time against multiple recipients” that place “an unreasonable burden on O.C.R.’s resources.” The department also eliminated appeals because it said they rarely resulted in a different outcome.
“Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education have determined that civil rights no longer matter. They’ve decided to abandon DOE’s Office of Civil Rights responsibility to investigate racial, gender or disability discrimination complaints,” NAACP spokesperson Malik Russell told The Root.
NAACP General Counsel Bradford M. Berry said: “By summarily changing policies to allow for the dismissal of civil rights complaints and the ability of organizations to appeal their rulings, DeVos is basically saying protecting civil rights and the rights of those with disabilities no longer matter at the Department of Education.”
Education officials said the revisions targeted “frequent fliers,” a handful of individuals who had generated thousands of complaints that were straining the department’s resources. Officials said the changes were partly a result of feedback from career investigators who were not able to respond to other complaints because they had amassed such a backlog, The New York Times reported.
The department said the revisions would not apply to broad complaints filed by groups, but the lawsuit said the provisions, as written, offer no guarantees.