BALTIMORE (June 1, 2018) — The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the nation’s premier civil rights organization Thursday filed a lawsuit along with the National Federation of the Blind and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates against the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. District Court of Maryland for the Department’s rolling back of civil rights enforcement regulations.
“Betsy DeVos and the Education Department have decided to abandon the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) obligation to protect students and employees from discriminatory practices,” said NAACP General Counsel, Bradford M. Berry. “By summarily changing policies to allow for the dismissal of civil rights complaints and the ability of organizations to appeal their rulings, DeVos is basically saying protecting civil rights and the rights of those with disabilities no longer matter at the Department of Education.”
The lawsuit argues that contrary to its mission and with no public notice and comment period, the DOE has severely curtailed its Office of Civil Rights’ ability to enforce federal discrimination laws by implementing illegal changes to its case procedure manual. These changes, argues the NAACP, eliminates substantive rights of the very people it purports to serve by abdicating its duty to investigate all complaints of discrimination by students, parents, and concerned community organizations.
In March 2018, DOE’s Office of Civil Rights revised its Case Processing Manual thereby altering the rights of complainants to have their discrimination allegations reviewed or appeal decisions made by OCR. These changes, made without the legally required notice and comment, prevented the NAACP and other organizations from voicing our opinions about how the proposed rule changes would affect students of color, students with disabilities and low income students, and thereby violates the federal Administrative Procedures Act. Attorneys from the Office of the General Counsel are joining the Baltimore-based firm Brown Goldstein and Levy as co-counsel in this case.
According to reports in the New York Times, hundreds of cases have been already dismissed including 500 disability rights complaints.