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Arne Duncan Announces Civil Rights Push in Education

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 09, 2010 12:05 PM

Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, traveled to Selma, Alabama, yesterday to announce the Department of Education's new civil rights program. Speaking at the historic Selma Bridge, the Boston Examiner reports that Secretary Duncan will work to ensure students of all races and genders have equal access to everything from college prep classes to science and engineering programs.

According to an AP report, the Department of Education is launching compliance reviews in 38 school districts to ensure gender and racial equality to all educational opportunities. Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights told the Associated Press, "For us, this is very much about working to meet the president's goal, that by 2020 we will regain our status in the world as the number one producer of college graduates."

Secretary Duncan spoke about several statistics that illustrate the inequalities he and the Department will work to eradicate. He cited some of the following examples:

  • Black students without disabilities are more than three times as likely to be expelled as white students, and those with disabilities more than twice as likely to be expelled or suspended - numbers which Duncan says testify to racial gaps that are "hard to explain away by reference to the usual suspects."
  • Students from low-income families who graduate from high school scoring in the top testing quartile are no more likely to attend college than the lowest-scoring students from wealthy families.

Assistant Secretary Ali said as part of the new effort, schools receiving federal funding will receive letters on topics covering everything from food allergies to law enforcement procedures for victims of sexual violence. If violations of the federal guidelines are found, the Education Department will work with districts and states to find a voluntary resolution. In extreme cases, Ali said funds could be withheld or ended.

In Alabama, Mr. Duncan summed up like this: "With a strict adherence to statutory and case law, we are going to make Dr. King's dream of a colorblind society a reality."

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