Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 18
2016 ELECTIONS > Transition
Civil Rights Groups Gird for Trump's Team
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
alleged religious discrimination, sex bias, and discrimination against English-language learners.
Shortly after President-elect Donald Trump's
victory, however, Gerard Robinson, a member of
the Trump presidential-transition team responsible for K-12 education-speaking for himself
and not on behalf of any organization-suggested
to Education Week that the new administration
could shift the Education Department's office for
civil rights back to its less activist stance under
Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush.
He did not give details. But Robinson also stressed
that he expects the OCR to ensure that students'
rights are not "trampled on."
So far, some leading civil rights organizations
are not optimistic.
"The work of this [Obama] administration has
been incredibly important" on civil rights issues in education, said Liz King, the director of
education policy for the Leadership Conference
on Civil and Human Rights, in Washington. "I
think there is a lot of concern in the civil rights
community" about what direction the new administration will take, she added.
Daniel J. Losen, the director of the Center for
Civil Rights Remedies, part of the Civil Rights
Project at the University of California, Los
Angeles, said, "What's scary to everybody who
cares about the civil rights of children is that the
worst of what [Trump] might do is horrific."
"The question in my mind is, how bad will it
be?" he added.
But Roger Clegg, a former Justice Department civil rights official under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said that "on
discrimination, the law will be enforced. ... I'm
confident that will happen here."
He also said in areas such as racial preferences
and "disparate impact," when there is a statistical
difference in outcomes based on race, the Trump
administration is likely to oppose positions taken
by the Obama administration.
Much is unknown about how the incoming
administration will proceed on civil rights in
education much is unknown, added Clegg, the
president and general counsel of the Center for
Equal Opportunity, in Falls Church, Va.
"We know that Hillary Clinton would have
been quite liberal in this area," said Clegg.
"We're dealing with at least the possibility of
more conservative policies in these areas, but
it depends on who [Trump] nominates to run
these different agencies."
U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.,
speaking to reporters Nov. 17, said he believed
his successor as secretary needed to "have a
strong commitment to the historical role of the
department in protecting students' civil rights."
One early flash point during the Trump administration could be the issue of transgender rights.
Under Obama, the OCR has taken the view
that under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination
"based on sex" in federally funded educational
programs, schools and colleges must allow transgender students to use the restrooms or locker
rooms that correspond to their gender identity.
A broad guidance document on the issue from
the Education and Justice departments is being
challenged in a lawsuit by 21 states, which contend that the interpretation is incorrect and
that such guidance may not be imposed on the
states without going through a notice-and-comment rulemaking procedure, which the May 16
"Dear Colleague" letter did not.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has accepted a case that arose before the "Dear Colleague" letter was issued that involves a Virginia transgender student who was denied the
use of the boys' restroom in his high school. A
federal appeals court ruled for the student by
giving deference to an informal interpretation
of Title IX provided by an OCR official.
Some observers have suggested that the Trump
administration could quickly reverse course by
withdrawing such guidance. Last spring, candidate Trump gave mixed signals on the issue. He
said on one occasion that he thought transgender
people should be able to "use the bathroom that
they feel is appropriate." He later said it should be
a matter for states to decide.
Two former U.S. solicitors general-the executive branch's chief lawyer before the Supreme
Court-were asked at a forum after the election
about a new administration's flexibility to withdraw guidance, and they were asked specifically
about the transgender guidance.
Donald W. Verrilli Jr., who served as President
Obama's solicitor general from 2011 until this
past spring, said the transgender guidance "was
not done by notice-and-comment rulemaking. So
it's not a formal rule. It's an informal letter interpreting existing law. So my observation about
that is that it is easy for a new administration
to change that."
Theodore B. Olson, who was solicitor general under President George W. Bush, agreed
at the Nov. 17 forum in Washington, sponsored
by Bloomberg Next, that a new administration
could change something like the transgender
guidance "relatively easily."
"When people talk about the first 100 days, or
the first day, somebody's going to have a list of
things" a new administration could change, Olson
said. The question is, he said, would it want to?
But he also noted that such changes in position can be tricky when they are part of a case
pending before the Supreme Court.
"The Supreme Court expects you in [the
solicitor general's] office to be calling it very
straight-not being capricious, not changing
positions just because a new person or new
president comes in," Olson said.
If the Obama administration decides to take a
position in the transgender case before the Supreme Court, Gloucester County School Board v.
G.G.-a normal step, given that its interpretation of a federal law is central to the case-its
friend-of-the-court brief would be due just days
before Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
Justice Department's Role
Meanwhile, the president-elect's Nov. 18 announcement of his selection of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to be attorney general was greeted
with dismay in the civil rights community. Critics pointed to Sessions' positions against gay
marriage and for strict immigration enforcement, for example, and to accusations of racism that helped derail his 1986 nomination by
What's scary to everybody ... is that the worst
of what [Trump] might do is horrific."
DANIEL J. LOSEN
Director, Center for Civil Rights Remedies
18 | EDUCATION WEEK | November 30, 2016 | www.edweek.org
President Ronald Reagan to a federal judgeship.
Eric H. Holder Jr., Obama's first attorney
general, was credited with reinvigorating the
Justice Department's civil rights division, which
maintains a key role in education issues, especially in ongoing desegregation cases.
Anurima Bhargava, who headed the division's
educational opportunities section for most of
Obama's tenure, offered a measured view of the
impact of a new administration.
"In my section alone, there are [career staff
members] who have been through multiple transitions in administrations," she said in an interview. "They continue to do the work through those
transitions. There are always dedicated people
who stay and hold down the fort."
The educational opportunities section presses
ahead on longtime desegregation cases, many of
which go back years or even decades.
"Certainly, as we know, schools are more segregated today than they have been in decades," said
Bhargava, who is now a fellow at the Open Society Foundations, in New York City, and the Carr
Center for Human Rights Policy, at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Two agencies are the
principal ones charged with
enforcement of federal civil
rights laws and issues in
Keeping an 'Open Mind'
Republican civil rights activists stressed their
view that presidential administrations of their
party have enforced civil rights laws in education, and they expressed hope that the Trump
administration would do so.
"We should give his incoming administration
an open mind and hold out the possibility that
there will be improvements in civil rights enforcement," said Kenneth L. Marcus, who was
effectively the acting head of the OCR for about
a year under President George W. Bush.
Marcus, now the president and general counsel of the Louis B. Brandeis Center for Human
Rights Under Law, in Washington, said that
when the OCR under his acting leadership
dealt with schools and colleges, "my sense was
that most administrators understood that they
needed to respond quite promptly and seriously,
regardless of the [presidential] administration."
"In my experience, the overwhelming majority of cases OCR handles will be addressed
largely the same, regardless of whether it is a
liberal or a conservative administration," Marcus said. "The differences will come in the relatively high-profile cases. But then, those are the
cases that matter."
Losen, of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA,
was not prepared to cut the Trump administration any slack.
"I worry about creating this image of likely
normalcy," he said. "If you look to the Reagan
and [both] Bush administrations, there was significant scaling-back" of civil rights enforcement
in education, he said. "Until we see some clear
indications of what [Trump] is really going to
do, we're justified in fearing the worst."
U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
Fiscal 2016 Appropriation:
Number of Employees: 589
Responsibilities: OCR helps enforce
federal laws barring discrimination
in educational programs
receiving federal funds. The
office investigates discrimination
complaints, conducts compliance
reviews, monitors corrective action
plans, and provides technical
assistance on civil rights issues.
It has 12 enforcement offices
around the country.
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights DivisionEducational Opportunities
Responsibilities: The arm of
the department is charged
with protecting students from
discrimination based on race, color,
national origin, sex, and religion.
It is involved in some 180 active
school desegregation cases. It also
is charged with enforcing the rights
of English-language learners and
students with disabilities.
* The Justice Department does not break
out its budget or employee figures for each
section of its Civil Rights Division.
SOURCES: U.S. Department of Education;
U.S. Department of Justice
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation supports
coverage of policy, government and politics, and
systems leadership in Education Week and on
edweek.org. The Broad Foundations were established by
entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad to advance
entrepreneurship for the public good in education,
science, and the arts. Education Week retains sole
editorial control over the content of this coverage.
We should ... hold out the possibility that there
will be improvements in civil rights enforcement.
KENNETH L. MARCUS
President and General Counsel, Louis B. Brandeis Center for Civil Rights Under Law
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - November 30, 2016
Education Week - November 30, 2016
States Eye Control Of Policy Levers
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Warning Sounded on Tech Disrupting Student Sleep
Anxiety on Civil Rights Enforcement
ACT to Offer ELL Students Extra Time for Testing
News in Brief
Group Urges Higher Standards in Teacher-Prep Admissions
Many Students ‘Stop Out’ of High School, Studies Show
Ayat’s Story, Part II: Living a College Dream
SNAPSHOT: A Divisive Presidential Election Spills Into Schools
Will a President Trump Boost Or Undermine School Choice?
Firm Path on Early Ed. Yet to Emerge
For First Family, Decision Ahead Over Schooling
K-12 Braces for Trump’s Immigration Stance
King Calls for End to Corporal Punishment in Schools
STATE NEWS ROUNDUP: N.J. Proposal Would Boost Superintendents’ Pay Cap Texas Curbs Spec. Ed. Enrollment Benchmark High Court Denies Case on Science Standards
LAURA PERILLE: A Model for Revitalizing Arts Education
ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ: On Not Erasing the Native American
LUCAS JACOB: Challenge Hatred
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
EVON PETER: Indigenizing Education in The Arctic
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - ACT to Offer ELL Students Extra Time for Testing
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 2
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 3
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - News in Brief
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - Report Roundup
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - Group Urges Higher Standards in Teacher-Prep Admissions
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - Many Students ‘Stop Out’ of High School, Studies Show
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - Ayat’s Story, Part II: Living a College Dream
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 9
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 10
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 11
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 12
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - SNAPSHOT: A Divisive Presidential Election Spills Into Schools
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - Firm Path on Early Ed. Yet to Emerge
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - For First Family, Decision Ahead Over Schooling
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - K-12 Braces for Trump’s Immigration Stance
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 17
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 18
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 19
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 20
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - STATE NEWS ROUNDUP: N.J. Proposal Would Boost Superintendents’ Pay Cap Texas Curbs Spec. Ed. Enrollment Benchmark High Court Denies Case on Science Standards
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ: On Not Erasing the Native American
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - LUCAS JACOB: Challenge Hatred
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - Letters
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 25
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - 27
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - EVON PETER: Indigenizing Education in The Arctic
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - CW1
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - CW2
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - CW3
Education Week - November 30, 2016 - CW4