Last week, the US House of Representatives voted 210-206 to approve a package revoking nearly $7 billion in funding reserved for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The House vote last week supported a $15 billion rescission package proposed earlier this year by President Trump. Nearly half of that rescission package comes from CHIP, which provides health care to children from low-income families. The package now goes to the US Senate.
On Tuesday, June 5th, US Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told a Senate committee that the federal commission on school safety will not focus on the role of guns in school violence. She also evaded questions that would draw her into a debate regarding gun control.
When the Trump administration first announced the creation of the commission, it charged the commission with bringing “meaningful and actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school.” It also listed a number of areas the commission would examine. The first was age restrictions on certain firearm purchases. Other areas included the examination of ratings systems for video games, the effects of news media coverage of mass shootings, and the consumption of “violent entertainment,” and funding for mental health and school infrastructure resources. The commission has also been charged with considering whether to repeal a package of Obama-era school discipline policies targeted at addressing disciplinary policies that disproportionately affect minority students.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) pleaded with Sec. DeVos to examine the policies of other countries where school shootings are rare or nonexistent, including Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, and Britain.
The Federal Commission on School Safety held its first field visit on May 31 at a Maryland elementary school. At the meeting, the commission focused on positive behavioral interventions and supports. Sadly, it was without three of the four cabinet secretaries who make up the commission, despite the meeting being held so close to DC. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Homeland Security Secretary Kristen Nielsen sent surrogates in their stead. The full commission has not met since March.
On Thursday, in Philadelphia, a panel of Third Circuit Appeals Court judges unanimously affirmed a lower court’s ruling, upholding the Boyertown Area School District’s practice of allowing transgender students to use the same restrooms and locker rooms as other students. The case, Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, was filed during the 2016-17 school year by students who claimed that the school district’s policy “violated the students’ bodily privacy rights” when it decided to implement a policy that allowed students to use the restroom facilities that correspond to their gender identity. They further argued that the new policy violated their constitutional right to privacy, as well as Title IX, a federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in education.
It took less than 20 minutes for the three-judge appeals court panel to emphatically reject arguments made on behalf of the students by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative law firm intent on legalizing anti-LGBTQ discrimination through the courts.
Lawyers for the school district have contended that it has made reasonable accommodations to ensure that no one is forced to forfeit his or her privacy. They have also averred that the school district faces an equal protection claim if it fails to continue allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.
Despite the stunningly swift appeals court decision, the plaintiffs have stated that they will continue their legal fight.
The judges plan to issue a written opinion during the summer of 2018, which will further spell out their reasoning in a ruling that adds to a mounting body of decisions in favor of transgender students.
The US Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has begun to dismiss hundreds of civil rights complaints in accordance with a new procedure that allows investigators to disregard cases which are either part of serial filings or which they deem burdensome to OCR.
The new procedure is supposed to mitigate the burden on OCR that occurs when advocates flood the office with thousands of complaints for similar violations, which the office asserts hinders its ability to investigate other cases. However, there are many who see this as proof of a more “hands-off” approach to investigating civil rights claims and enforcing civil rights laws, which could result in discriminatory behavior being allowed in public schools and institutions across the country.
A new policy provision allows the OCR to dismiss cases that reflect “a pattern of complaints previously filed with OCR by an individual or a group against multiple recipients,” or complaints “filed for the first time against multiple recipients that” place “an unreasonable burden on OCR’s resources.” The new provision has already resulted in the dismissal of more than 500 disability rights complaints.