The Department of Education (ED) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) play an important role in the protection of students’ rights as federal law requires them to enforce key civil rights protections. As we have seen far too often, students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined — often for discretionary offenses, such as talking back or disrupting class. Accordingly, students frequently rely on ED’s Office for Civil Rights as a safeguard. A memo released by ProPublica raises serious concerns that ED will not review sufficient amounts of data when assessing whether there is a violation, and will curtail its review to look only at individual issues even when there is evidence of systemic or long term problems. LDF filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to look into the existence of other similar memos and to ensure ED and DOJ both continue to do their vital job of protecting all students equally.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.