12.18.2015 4

Civil Rights Commissioner ‘baffled’ by Republican raise to Education Department Office of Civil Rights

DoEOfficeofCivilRightsBy Rick Manning

In an exclusive statement provided to NetRightDaily.com, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Commissioner Gail Heriot said she was “baffled” by Congress’ decision to include a 7 percent raise for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in light of their “pattern of disregard for the rule of law.”

Below is Commissioner Heriot’s statement.

“One of the more disturbing aspects of the omnibus spending bill is the 7 percent budget increase for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”).  That would be a large increase for any federal office.  But OCR’s pattern of disregard for the rule of law makes any budget increase clearly unjustified.

“I am not the only one seriously troubled by OCR’s actions.  Last year, 28 members of the faculty of Harvard Law School and 16 members of the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School—hardly bastions of conservative thought—expressed deep misgivings over the sexual assault and harassment policies adopted by their respective institutions under pressure from OCR.  Expressing their thoughts in open letters published in the Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal, these legal scholars took the position that the procedures insisted upon by OCR were fundamentally unfair to students accused of wrongdoing.  It was only because OCR had the power to cut off colleges and universities from federal funds that it was able to “persuade” them to adopt procedures so heavily biased against the accused.

“Most recently, OCR employed hardball tactics with an Illinois school district in support of a “transgender” student who wished to use the girls’ locker room despite having an anatomically male body.  A number of female students and their parents objected to this on privacy grounds.  Under threat of losing its federal funding, the school district agreed as a compromise to allow the particular student to use the girls’ locker room so long as the student agreed to dress behind a private curtain and the arrangement was not used as a precedent.  Before the ink was dry on the agreement, however, OCR was asserting that the student could not be required to dress behind the curtain and that a precedent had indeed been set.  The school district felt betrayed.  Interestingly, in the last few days OCR has backed off its efforts to undo the compromise.  It is clear that it is eager to continue its practice of threatening schools with a loss of federal funding if they fail to respond to transgender students in the manner OCR desires.  But in addition it has shown itself to be keen on preventing cases like this one from reaching the courts, where its strained interpretation of Title IX in connection with the use of locker rooms by transgender students would likely be overruled.

“These are just two examples.  OCR has several other initiatives—like its recent policy on bullying—that take it far beyond applicable Supreme Court precedent.  Peter Kirsanow, one of my colleagues on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and I wrote a letter to Congressional leaders earlier this year citing that initiative’s conflict with Supreme Court precedent along with several other examples of OCR overreach.  Now Congress has given OCR a raise.  We are baffled.”

Gail Heriot is a registered Independent and a Professor of Law at the University of San Diego in addition to her duties on the Commission.

Rick Manning is President of the Americans for Limited Government.

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