Washington, D.C. — The Department of Education (ED) has drastically scaled back civil rights enforcement for LGBTQ students, according to data obtained by the Center for American Progress and revealed in a new report.
Records obtained from the ED through Freedom of Information Act requests show that since the start of the Trump administration, Title IX complaints related to sexual orientation or gender identity were more than nine times less likely to result in corrective action than they were during the Obama administration.
The report also found that fewer complaints proceeded to a formal investigation by ED’s Office for Civil Rights. While some complaints may not merit corrective action, any such decision should be based on fact. The lower rate of investigations raises concerns about whether allegations of discrimination are being taken seriously.
“Betsy DeVos claims the Department of Education is committed to ensuring that all students have access to their education free from discrimination. But these data show that she is failing,” said Frank J. Bewkes, co-author of the report and a policy analyst for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. “There is an clear disregard for the rights of LGBTQ students under Title IX.”
This appears to be part of an unfortunate pattern under DeVos’ leadership, the report says. One of her first acts as secretary of education was to revoke Obama-era guidance that affirmed protections for transgender students. Last year, she said the department was no longer investigating complaints from transgender students regarding access to bathrooms and locker rooms, as well as a range of other complaints of anti-transgender discrimination.
“This administration’s failure to protect the civil rights of LGBTQ students should not come as a surprise to anyone,” said Shabab Ahmed Mirza, co-author of the report and a research assistant at CAP. “But the ninefold decrease in the rate of corrective action is a shocking indicator of the scale of the problem.”
The report argues that rather than rolling back the clock on civil rights, the department should acknowledge the specific needs of LGBTQ students, make clear that they are protected under Title IX, and meaningfully pursue complaints filed by students and families who seek to exercise those rights.
Read the report: “Secretary DeVos Is Failing to Protect the Civil Rights of LGBTQ Students” by Shabab Ahmed Mirza and Frank J. Bewkes.
For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at gro.ssergorpnacirema@lenanahs or 202-478-6327.