Home > Uncategorized > DeVos/Trump USDOE’s Penchant for Negotiated Settlements on Civil Rights Requires Oversight and Follow-up… Which are in Short Supply

DeVos/Trump USDOE’s Penchant for Negotiated Settlements on Civil Rights Requires Oversight and Follow-up… Which are in Short Supply

October 7, 2017

Thursday’s Politico Morning Education News Feed by Benjamin Wermund with help from Caitlin Emma and Michael Stratford described the Trump/DeVos USDOE’s penchant for negotiated settlements in civil rights cases. The Politico writers report:

The Trump administration has ended more than 700 civil rights investigations through a negotiation process concluded with so-called “302 agreements.” Under these agreements, the school agrees to make changes and the Education Department ends the investigation but says it will keep an eye on the school to make sure it falls in line.

Politico indicates these “302 agreements” are not a new feature, but the increase in their use is notable… and every indication is that their use will accelerate in the months ahead.

The (Trump) administration had resolved 706 civil rights complaints this way as of Aug. 29, according to records obtained by POLITICO. Under the Obama administration, the Office for Civil Rights resolved 462 cases this way through all of last year, according to the records. In 2015, it resolved just 387 complaints this way. The Trump administration had begun negotiations on, but had yet to resolve, 168 more cases as of Aug. 29. The bulk of them – 130 negotiations – started after Candice Jackson, the department’s acting civil rights chief, issued a June 8 memo telling civil rights investigators to take a smaller scope in their investigations. The memo also gave regional civil rights offices more autonomy by scrapping a requirement for the D.C. office to sign off on cases.

The Trump?DeVos USDOE  administration is spinning the increase in “302 agreements” as a means of achieving expedited settlements, settlements that do not result in resolutions being dragged out for years.

“The Office for Civil Rights is working to make sure that justice is no longer unduly delayed for students who have filed civil rights complaints,” Liz Hill, an Education Department spokeswoman, said. “OCR is pursuing a longstanding tradition of reaching voluntary resolution agreements with institutions willing to address civil rights concerns that ensure appropriate policy changes and remedies in individual cases.”

Politico quoted civil rights activists who were distressed over the pace of “302 agreements” because they felt such agreements diminished the depth of the investigations and assumed a higher degree of innocence on the part of institutions…. and there is ipso facto evidence of such handling.  As Politico noted in earlier reports:

DeVos’ Education Department had closed more than 1,500 civil rights complaints at the nation’s schools – including dismissing more than 900 outright – in the two months since her acting civil rights chief took steps to reduce a massive backlog.

As one who is concerned with the pending budget cuts to USDOE in the name of “efficiency” I wonder how the USDOE can possibly “keep an eye on the school to make sure it falls in line” given the marked increase in “302 settlements”. My hunch is that not only will they be unable to monitor these settlements, they will be unable to investigate future ones… and I don’t think the Trump/DeVos administration sees this as a “bug”… they view it as a desirable feature.

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