Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, Illegally Delayed Rule Addressing Racial Inequalities, Judge Rules

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Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, illegally delayed enforcing an Obama-era rule made to address the racial discrimination in special education programs, ruled a federal judge on Friday.

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia called DeVos’ plan to delay the enforcement “arbitrary and capricious,” according to The New York Times. The rule, drafted under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and passed in the last weeks of Barack Obama’s tenure, would require states to identify districts with “significant disproportionality” in the number of minority students receiving special education services.

But the Education Department, led by DeVos, put off the regulation for two years, arguing that enforcing the rule could lead to unconstitutional “racial quotas.” DeVos argued that the evidently large disparities in special education programs might not be a result of discrimination, but could instead be attributed to facts such as districts’ capacity to train teachers and disciplining students with disabilities.

“The secretary is concerned that the regulations will create an environment where children in need of special education and related services do not receive those services because of the color of their skin,” the department wrote.

But Judge Tanya S. Chutkan was not impressed by the Education Department’s reasoning, arguing that it “did not have adequate support in the rulemaking record.” Moreover, the judge wrote, there were enough safeguards in the Obama-era rule to stop it from being misused.

DeVos had delayed the enforcement of the rule after a public comment period which had seen a massive majority of people argue that her actions were denying black and Hispanic students a proper education. Denise Marshall, executive director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the advocacy organization that sued the Department of Education over the delay, said that the judge’s ruling vindicated the concerns of millions of parents and teachers. She pointed out that the enforcement would identify districts which have “historically discriminated against children.”

“The court has sided with the children whom the department had deemed unimportant through its actions,” she said.

The ruling has to take effect immediately, meaning DeVos or her department cannot delay enforcing the rule any further. But despite the overwhelming support among teachers and parents for the rule, it has its share of detractors too. The School Superintendents Association, representing nearly 13,000 superintendents across the country, said that the new rule will not bring in favorable results “without considerable new financial and technical support from the states.”