House Democrats Push New Civil Rights Protections for Public School Students

POLITICO Pro reports that a study by the Government Accountability Office found an increase in schools with high concentrations of poor and black or Hispanic students and resulting inequities in educational opportunities. This caused a group of House Democrats to make a new push to improve federal civil rights protections for public school students.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) recently introduced legislation that would restore the ability of individuals to file lawsuits under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which prohibits race-based discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal funding – when a federally supported program or policy has a “disparate impact” on racial minorities. The ability to sue in such cases unless the person can prove that the racial discrimination was intentional was eliminated in 2001.

The study found that between the 2000-01 and 2013-14 school years, the share of public schools with high percentages of poor and black or Hispanic students increased from 9 to 16 percent. Also, these schools offered “disproportionately fewer math, science and college preparatory courses and had disproportionately higher rates of students who were held back in 9th grade, suspended or expelled.” The report recommended that the Education and Justice Departments improve on using data to inform their efforts to fight racial discrimination.

Democratic Reps. John Conyers of Michigan, Xavier Becerra of California and G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina joined Scott at a press conference announcing the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act. The bill would also open up a broader range of Title VI claims in programs beyond educational settings, create a new position at the Education Department to coordinate enforcement of Title VI, and require schools to designate Title VI monitors