WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) helped pass the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act to hold federally funded programs, including schools, accountable for their responsibility to provide all students with equal opportunity for a quality education.
“The Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act is key to promoting equal education opportunities and restoring the rights of students who are victims of discrimination,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “Disparate impact claims are an important tool to root out acts of bias in our schools under the Civil Rights Act and we must uphold the spirit of this landmark law. I was proud to help pass this critical legislation today to ensure we have just education policies that provides every student with an equal opportunity for success in the classroom.”
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act mandates that federal dollars cannot subsidize or support programs or activities that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin. From 1964 until 2001, students and parents had the right – under Title VI – to take schools to court over education policies that have a disparate impact on their access to a quality education.
Importantly, disparate impact claims do not have to establish that a school acted with intentional bias – which is often impossible to prove. These claims only have to establish that a school policy or practice has a disproportionately negative impact on students of a certain race, color, or national origin.
In 2001, however, the Supreme Court opinion in Alexander V. Sandoval stripped victims of discrimination of their right to bring disparate impact claims under Title VI against schools and other entities receiving federal funds. Under the ruling, only the federal government may use disparate impact in administrative enforcement of Title VI.
The Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act would:
- Restore the private right of action for students and parents to bring disparate impact claims under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
- Create Title VI monitors to ensure that every school district and institution of higher education has at least one employee to specifically responsible for investigating any complaints of discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.
- Create an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education to coordinate and promote Title VI enforcement in education.