Education Department closes 1,200 Obama-era civil rights probes

Education Department closes 1,200 Obama-era civil rights probes
© Greg Nash

The Education Department has closed more than 1,200 civil rights investigations launched during the Obama administration, a ProPublica analysis found.

An analysis of more than 40,000 civil rights cases found that upward of 1,200 probes started during the Obama administration and lasting at least six months were shut down by the department under Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosColleges, universities seeing rise in sexual assault claims, lawsuits Support for educational choice continues to grow Stand with veterans instead of predatory for-profit colleges MORE.

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The analysis also found that the percentage of findings of civil rights violations or orders of corrective changes has dropped under the Trump administration.

About 51 percent of the investigations during the last 15 months of the Obama administration ended in the finding of a violation or corrective action. Thirty-five percent of cases ended with the same results during the first 15 months of the Trump administration.

An Education Department spokeswoman told ProPublica that the department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is “as committed as ever” to enforcing civil rights law. She did not dispute ProPublica's analysis of the cases.

“Where the evidence is insufficient for OCR to prove a violation of law, or the facts show that dismissal is appropriate on other grounds, OCR closes the case, which provides much-needed closure for both students and institutions,” the spokeswoman told the news outlet. She added that the department has “restored the role of OCR investigators as neutral fact-finders.” 

ProPublica noted that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE's Education Department has taken steps to more quickly wrap up investigations, eliminating steps required under Obama. The report also stated that while the Obama administration took on more complex civil rights probes, DeVos has scaled back those investigations.

The Education Department under DeVos adopted a new provision earlier this year that allowed officials to dismiss hundreds of civil rights complaints considered onerous or unnecessary.

DeVos is also reviewing guidance meant to prevent black students from being punished more severely than their white peers, which critics fear will be rescinded.