Senate Democrats Press DeVos on Civil-Rights Enforcement

Senate Democrats are “extraordinarily disappointed and alarmed” about recent moves the Education Department has made on civil-rights enforcement, according to a letter sent on Tuesday to the education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

The letter, sent by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and signed by 34 senators, highlighted several actions in recent weeks that have angered Democrats. It pointed to memos sent to staff members in the department’s Office for Civil Rights that would alter how it approaches investigations, the hiring of key staff members, and the secretary’s testimony before Congress, among other points of contention.

“There is no more serious responsibility of the department than to ensure consistent, vigorous enforcement of civil-rights laws and protections for all students,” the lawmakers wrote. The letter included a list of nine questions that must be answered for senators to “fully understand the impact of recent policy and civil-rights investigatory and enforcement changes.”

Elizabeth Hill, a spokeswoman for the department, said in an email to The Chronicle that a memo on how the department would investigate Title IX claims would help clear the backlog of cases. “This memo is about ensuring every individual complainant gets the care and attention they deserve,” she said.

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