States’ Rights and Wrongs

The rollback of civil rights enforcement in education is underway, says law professor Derek Black…

Jennifer Berkshire: The Trump Administration has just rescinded guidelines to schools banning discrimination against transgender students. There’s a lot of speculation about just how *joint* the joint letter from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions actually was. But you seem unconvinced by the portrayals of DeVos as a fierce protector of civil rights.

Image result for transgender bathroomDerek Black: The stream of bad news over the past few months has been steady. The Trump transition team said the administration would scale back the civil rights work in education.  At her confirmation hearing, Betsy DeVos was reluctant to take an affirmative stance on enforcing students’ disability rights.  Since taking the post, she has remarked that she could not *think of any* current pressing civil rights issues where the federal government has a role to play; things like racial segregation and exclusion of females were things of the past in her opinion.  

Now reports are coming out that Gail Heriot is likely to be the next head of the Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Heroit has been critical of the Office’s aggressive civil rights stance in recent years. With these individuals in place, it is hard to imagine much good happening at the federal level. Even if they do not rescind other Department positions on integration, school discipline, English Language Learners, and school resources, they are very unlikely to enforce existing regulations and policy guidance. Disparate impact enforcement, for instance, will be non-existent.  Rather than take on traditional civil rights concerns, I would expect they will identify fringe issues to pursue.  Continue reading →