In yet another attempt to make the country great again, the Department of Education sent an internal memo this week advising educators to lay low when it comes to civil rights. Yes, an internal memo was sent out with the approval of Betsy DeVos is neutral when it comes to civil rights. A memo sent by Candice E. Jackson, the head of the department’s office for civil rights, allegedly informed employees in the department that their investigative duties would be scaled back. As in, regional departments would have less funding for inquiries into what the New York Times calls " systemic issues." In addition to that, regional offices won't be forced to alert other agencies, like the FBI, about hate crimes or sexual assault on college campuses.
The Department of Education is not a particularly "cool" place to work. But it's where people make and enact choices about how to educate human beings, so it should be more visible. Alas, things tend to happen in the DOE quickly, quietly, and without a lot of feedback from the people it will affect. This memo, though it may seem insignificant, is really huge deal. Hopefully, states will contest it, because this new directive is all about ignoring victims of bullying or sexual assault.
"It’s really a way of curtailing the way civil rights enforcement should be handled. It’s literally a stick your head in the sand approach," one administrator told the New York Times. Because it does actually matter when discrimination is addressed. It's not about being "politically correct." It's about being right.
DeVos has made it pretty clear in her appointment hearings and in other public statements that she doesn't think the Department of Education has any place to regulate school districts. Which mean that administrators nationwide are getting a message, whether they choose to adhere to it or not, that getting involved in bullying or any other possible civil rights violation is bad news.
DeVos's statement about bullying is on her website. It reads:
This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, district or state can abdicate. At my direction, the Department's Office for Civil Rights remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.
That sounds like she means well, right? Not so much. It's about civil rights, which the Obama administrations worked hard to implement. Things like violent bullying or sexual assault will be investigated by the institution and not a third party. DeVos might pull the thread of a lot of protections that students had in their schools. Surely, something good should come of it. RIght?