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Act Restores Private Right to Sue on Discriminatory Educational Practices

September 17, 2020 by Sara Wilkerson

WASHINGTON – The House passed the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act (EIEA), legislation on Wednesday that will restore students’ and parents’ right to hold schools accountable for racial discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EIEA was brought to the House by Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., the chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor. 

In his floor remarks on H.R. 2574, Scott stated, “History has shown that we cannot support historically disadvantaged students or close persistent achievement gaps without robust civil rights enforcement.  This is particularly true as public schools become more segregated … as segregated as they were in the 1960s, and as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates inequitable access to quality education for underserved students.” 

Scott continued his statement by saying, “Today, we have the opportunity to restore and strengthen critical civil rights protections by passing the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act.” 

The EIEA creates a private right of action to allow students to file disparate claims, which are policies and practices that are not intentionally discriminatory, however lead to negative disproportionate effects on racial groups.  

Victims of discrimination have not been able to file for disparate claims due to the decision of the 2001 SCOTUS case Alexander v. Scandoval.  

The 5-4 Scandoval decision blocked victims’ right to sue schools and other entities that receive federal funds under Title VI. The decision ruled that the federal government, not discrimination victims themselves, are allowed to use disparate impact claims to hold schools accountable for fair and equitable education.  

As a result of the 2001 ruling, there has been mass confusion as to how students and families can hold their schools accountable under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  

In his defense of passing the EIEA, Scott remarked that because of the effects of the Scandoval decision, the case “… opened the door to civil rights enforcement [into] becoming a political issue, instead of a right.” 

Scott further said, “Our core civil rights protections should not be up for a vote every four years.” 

Not only will the EIEA restore victims’ right to sue on the grounds of disparate claims, but the legislation also will require schools to have at least one employee monitor Title VI claims so that schools are kept accountable under the new law.  

Once placed in schools, Title VI employees are required to investigate complaints of discrimination based on color, race, or national origin. The Title VI employee will be modeled according to how current Title IX officers function in school environments.  

In addition to hiring Title VI employees at schools, the EIEA will create an Assistant Secretary position within the Department of Education whose job will be to specifically coordinate and implement Title VI enforcement in education settings across the country.  

“Nearly seven decades after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down school segregation, this bill would bring us one step closer to delivering on its promise of equity in education,” concluded Chairman Scott in his floor remarks. 

The EIEA has been endorsed by organizations such as the Advancement Project, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

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