As an openly bisexual woman who did not have a single female professor throughout my college and postgraduate education in any subject, and who faced harassment and abuse, as well as downright sabotage in graduate school, I am sympathetic to efforts on campuses to give voice and equal power to groups that have been historically excluded and silenced.
Now, as a philosophy professor, I am part of perhaps the most male-dominated (and arguably least feminist-friendly) discipline in the humanities, and have dedicated much of my career to mentoring women and students of color. I understand that injustice and inequality remain firmly in place, and in order to eliminate it, much more work remains to be done.
After barely surviving her confirmation battle and facing sporadic protests during visits to schools, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could hardly have teed up a more fraught, emotional and divisive issue to launch her tenure: campus sexual assault.
Though almost no one is happy with the Obama administration’s efforts to prod colleges and universities to more aggressively combat and investigate sexual assault on campus, there is little agreement on how to make things better.
Alleged survivors, accused perpetrators and even school officials all complain that the current system isn’t working.
Last week, while the most in the media fixed their eyes on Donald Trump Jr., far-left activists geared up for a different kind of assault on the Trump administration: a full-court press to maintain a series of unlawful Obama-era policies that have stripped young men of their constitutional rights, ruined lives, and fostered politically correct (but factually challenged) hysteria on campuses from coast to coast. At issue is the Obama administration’s April 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, a document that skipped the legally mandated regulatory rulemaking process to require colleges to adjudicate campus sexual-assault cases under a “preponderance of the evidence” standard without also securing adequate due-process rights for the accused.
Why do such a thing? Because campus activists (and Obama-administration allies) were convinced that colleges were in the middle of a “rape crisis.” Shoddy studies conducted with expansive definitions of sexual assault convinced the Left that an astounding 20 percent of college women are assaulted during their campus years, rendering the university a virtual war zone for women. It’s a rate that contradicts Bureau of Justice statistics showing that women are safer on campus than off, and that the real rate of sexual violence on campus isn’t one in five but closer to 6.1 per 1,000, a number that had been trending downward for 14 years as of 2013, the last year covered in the BJS report.
North Carolina lawmakers are working on a bill to offer gun education to high school students. It’s likely to be a controversial topic, in the aftermath of the San Bernardino elementary school shooting and recent gun violence around the country.
House Bill 612 would bring gun education into the classroom, but not the ammunition.
It would be strictly coursework, offering an elective for students who wanted to take it. The new bill would authorize the State Board of Education to create and offer a firearm elective course for high school students.
The course would not include the use of live ammunition, in fact, it wouldn’t even be in the classroom.
Yesterday, myself and four other LGBTQ Activists from GLSEN had the honor of sitting down with US Secretary of Education, Dr. John King, in his second to last day in office. Amid a changing administration, the Secretary offered his words of advice, and listened to our experiences as LGBTQ students as well as our hopes for inclusivity in the future of education. I think all of us, both visitors from GLSEN and the staff at the Department of Education, can agree that we all walked away with valuable information, useful connections, and an even stronger motivation to fight for student’s rights in schools.
Much of our conversation with the Secretary consisted of talking about our experiences in schools and how the federal government can further support LGBTQ students. We discussed issues like discriminatory bathroom policies, discrimination and bullying in schools, LGBTQ inclusive curriculum, and mutual respect among teachers, administrators, and our peers. As students, we proposed new ideas to help make schools more inclusive: e.g. class rosters with student’s preferred names and pronouns, accessible gender neutral bathrooms, and school bullying policies that specifically mention LGBTQ identities. We also talked about various steps the Department of Education has taken in the last few years; how they have improved school climates, and ways that there’s still room for growth.
The U.S. Department of Education announced today the award of $2.5 million in grants to operate 23 Community Parent Resource Centers in 17 states and a Parent Training and Information Center to serve American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Republic of Palau. The centers provide parents with the training and information they need to work with professionals in meeting the early intervention and special needs of children with disabilities.
With the new grants, the Department now funds 87 information centers for parents of children and youth with disabilities. Every state has at least one Parent Training and Information Center that assists parents as they work to ensure their children receive a free, appropriate public education as guaranteed by federal law. In addition, the centers provide services to underserved parents of children with disabilities in targeted communities throughout the country.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Minot State University, North Dakota, after finding the university in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
OCR found that the university failed to process a complaint brought by a former student (Student A) who reported that during her time at the school, she had been sexually assaulted for over two years by one of her professors. Despite the serious nature of the complaint, OCR determined that Minot State did not take any steps to address the effects of the hostile environment to which the student reported she had been subjected.
“Minot State University has committed to take critically necessary steps to bring its practices, and its policies, into compliance with Title IX, correcting significant safety gaps that had persisted for too long for its students,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “I am grateful for the university’s commitment to satisfying its students’ civil rights going forward.”
The Department of Education announced today 67 colleges and universities selected to participate in the new Second Chance Pell pilot program, an experiment announced in July 2015 to test whether participation in high quality education programs increases after expanding access to financial aid for incarcerated individuals. The pilot program will allow eligible incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs and support their families when they are released. Today’s announcement builds on the Obama Administration’s commitment to create a fairer and more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on families and communities through educational opportunity.
The United States currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world with approximately 2.2 million people incarcerated in American prisons and jails. Hundreds of thousands of individuals are released annually from these facilities. A 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.
The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today released guidance to states, school districts and child welfare agencies on the new provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for supporting children in foster care. The guidance aims to assist state and local partners in understanding and implementing the new law, and to inform state and local collaboration between educational and child welfare agencies across the nation for the well-being of children in foster care. The guidance is the first the Department of Education is releasing regarding provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act, in the coming weeks and months to help states, districts and schools as the implement the new law. In addition, the Education Department is also releasing a letter to states and districts stressing the importance and utility of stakeholder engagement as they begin to transition to ESSA.
Over the past several months, the Education Department hosted over 200 meetings with stakeholders from across the country, including parents and teachers, school leaders, state and district officials, tribes, and civil rights groups on a number of issues. The most notable dialogue centered on the equity and excellence goals of ESSA, and how to protect the civil rights of students. The guidance released today has been informed by promising practices from states and districts, as well as input from many and diverse stakeholders consulted during the development of the resource.
The U.S. Department of Education today released a new toolkit to inspire and support current and former foster youth pursuing college and career opportunities. The Foster Care Transition Toolkit includes tips and resources intended to help foster youth access and navigate social, emotional, educational and skills barriers as they transition into adulthood.
Currently, there are over 400,000 children and youth in America’s foster care system and every year, more than 23,000 youth age out of the system, never having found the security of a permanent home.
“Many foster youth lack stable residences and strong support structures and face tremendous barriers,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “This toolkit offers practical tips on navigating those challenges – with education as the foundation.”