Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education Get Sued for Abandoning Discrimination Complaints

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
Photo: Win McNamee (Getty Images)

The NAACP is once again taking it to the courts, this time filing a federal lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her Department of Education for abandoning civil-rights-enforcement regulations and dismissing hundreds of complaints.


On Friday, the organization joined with the National Federation of the Blind and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates to file the suit against DeVos and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

“Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education have determined that civil rights no longer matter. They’ve decided to abandon DOE’s Office of Civil Rights responsibility to investigate racial, gender or disability discrimination complaints,” NAACP spokesperson Malik Russell told The Root.

NAACP General Counsel Bradford M. Berry said: “By summarily changing policies to allow for the dismissal of civil rights complaints and the ability of organizations to appeal their rulings, DeVos is basically saying protecting civil rights and the rights of those with disabilities no longer matter at the Department of Education.”

According to an NAACP press release, the DOE has severely curtailed its Office of Civil Rights’ ability to enforce federal discrimination laws by implementing illegal changes to its case procedure manual, impacting the rights of those it “purports to serve.” It reads further:

In March 2018, DOE’s Office of Civil Rights revised its Case Processing Manual thereby altering the rights of complainants to have their discrimination allegations reviewed or appeal decisions made by OCR. These changes, made without the legally required notice and comment, prevented the NAACP and other organizations from voicing our opinions about how the proposed rule changes would affect students of color, students with disabilities and low-income students, and thereby violates the federal Administrative Procedures Act.


DeVos, who has no experience as an educator, nor any experience in education, has been supportive of school choice, school-voucher programs and charter schools. She has been embattled and embarrassing since her contentious confirmation hearings last year. The billionaire was chosen by President Donald Trump after Jerry Falwell Jr. turned down the Cabinet post and is sister to Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who reportedly brokered a secret meeting in Seychelles establishing a back channel between Trump and Vladimir Putin.


Trump’s billionaire-boys’-club cronyism, as well as his divisive rhetoric, has set the climate for such disastrous practices, the NAACP charges.

“It’s important for people to realize how the racism and rhetoric emanating from the White House is seeping its way into law and policy, and this arbitrary change is just one more example of where Trump is taking the nation,” Russell says.


Read a copy of the complaint here (pdf).

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.


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