Are private schools beholden to civil rights laws?
- The Trump Administration's current education policy aims to offer school mobility to lower-income students that aren't satisfied with their local institutions. It will do this by funneling federal funds to both private and public institutions that would be given more resources to admit them — the federal school voucher initiative.
- However, with federal funding potentially going to private schools, Mike Petrilli, the executive editor of Education Next, explains that private schools are required by law to not discriminate on the basis of race, but Petrilli argues similar protections do not exist around gender lines or for LGBT students and families. And limited protections exist for students with disabilities.
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will likely be asked about this issue when she appears before the Senate on Tuesday, writes Petrilli.
In their current capacity, private schools are not subjected to the same regulations on discriminating against certain students as public schools that must meet certain federal requirements. With the new federal voucher initiative that the Trump Administration is promoting, it's still unclear whether private institutions are going to have to follow federal civil rights laws, even though they would be receiving funding from the government, as DeVos in a hearing last month said that discriminatory schools would not necessarily be ineligible for federal dollars.
Further, though DeVos claimed that the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights aggressively investigates all claims of discrimination, she did not concede that the federal government would intervene in any decision on whether these schools ought to be denied funding. Instead, she believes the decision is best left up to the states. Her statement ruffled some feathers among educators, as the program doesn't set a standard for private institutions to level the playing field for students of different backgrounds.
Currently, private schools are not able to discriminate on the basis of race. However, they are not necessarily required to follow Title IX rules, unless they receive federal funding, and can be exempt from them on the basis of religion. Private institutions are allowed to deny students on the basis of their LGBTQ identities and can refuse to admit students on the basis of religion. And even with the American Disabilities Act, they cannot refuse students with disabilities outright, but they are not required to meet needs of students with disabilities if they do not already have such programs in place. Federal funding for these schools could change that situation, depending on whether discrimination and funding limitations are handled by the state or federal government.
- EducationNext Are Private Schools Allowed to Discriminate?
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