It’s the 21st century, but the number of civil rights complaints in schools have hit an all-time high.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Education is currently investigating a record number of complaints.
Under President Bush’s eight-year administration, the DOE’s office for civil rights launched 22 compliance reviews, yet under President Obama’s scant 33 months in office so far, the DOE has already launched a record 30 compliance reviews.
With more public schools segregated today than in the 1970's, the U.S. Department of Education says that the many civil rights investigations are aimed at preventing resources and services from reaching only predominately white schools.
“The civil rights laws are the most sorely underutilized tool in education reform and closing the achievement gap,” says Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights for the department of education. “This is the most important civil rights issue of our time.”
The DOE says that President Barack Obama has emphasized that he wants the department to investigate education-related civil rights violations, especially after the record 7,000 complaints filed with the department last year.
Across the nation, districts are being investigated for a range of offenses, including failing to provide minority students with access to college- and career-track courses, not assigning “highly qualified teachers” to minority districts, and disproportionately suspending minority students and placing them in special education courses.
Additionally, today the Department of Education just released data that shows that in districts around the country, teachers at schools with more Latino and African-American enrollment are paid $2,500 less on average than teachers in the district as a whole.
“America has been battling inequity in education for decades but these data show that we cannot let up,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “Children who need the most too often get the least. It's a civil rights issue, an economic security issue and a moral issue.”
Last year the Office for Civil Rights was criticized by Education Secretary Arnie Duncan that they had not aggressively pursued Title 6 investigations to improve the quality of education for minority and poor students over the last ten years, and this year, the department is seeking to make up for their mistakes.
If you know of discrimination taking place in a school, you can file a complaint with the office for civil rights here.
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(Photo: Larry Downing/Reuters)