The U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee recently held a hearing regarding the legality of the oversight that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has levied over educational institutions through the use of Title IX.
The committee questioned the authority of the Education Department official who enforces civil rights on the basis of illegal overreach. The College Fix first broke the story, stating that the Education Department was “shredded” during the proceedings.
“The OCR [has] proceeded to threaten the higher education community with the loss of federal funding if institutions didn’t adopt slanted procedures against students accused of sexual misconduct, notably the low ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard,” states the The College Fix article.
Recently, Title IX has been used more than ever to influence university policies nationwide, and sexual assault adjudication processes have become skewed due to this OCR overreach. Recent examples include the suspension of a University of Cincinnati student who was found innocent of sexual assault. Title IX officials prompted an investigation, which resulted in an administrative action by the University to remove the student. Also, at the University of Virginia, the campus administration made an agreement with the Education Department to “comply” with Title IX regulations.
Both HELP committee members and members of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management grilled Amy McIntosh, the Education Department official representing the agency, with questions regarding how the Department of Education has the right to enforce certain edicts from OCR.
“How does the Department of Education get the right to make a guidance which will be under Title IX, when the head of Title IX thinks everybody she issues a guidance to has to do what she says?” Senator Lamar Alexander (R. – Tennessee) stated. Senator Alexander is the chairman of the HELP committee.
In response, McIntosh stated that the OCR does no such things. “Guidance that the department issues does not have the force of law,” McIntosh states in the hearing video, “guidance under Title IX is not binding.”
In a release given to TheCollegeConservative via an email from Senator Alexander’s press staff, the debate on this was sparked by a hearing that involved Catherine Lhamon, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.
Senator Alexander questioned Lhamon’s actions by asking if the OCR’s overarching guidance was to be followed by 6,000 higher education institutions. McIntosh defended Secretary Lhamon by stating that the agency does expect any institution that receives funding from the Education Department must follow regulations, set forth by OCR.
Senator Alexander also focused on OCR creating regulations having to deal with bullying in schools. Alexander asserted that regulating bullying should be done at a local level, not by Washington. He also stated that no one in Congress wanted a “national school board” to dictate bullying policy for local school districts.
“The United States Senate doesn’t agree that the federal government ought to be telling the local school what its bullying policy ought to be,” Senator Alexander stated.
McIntosh further defends the Department of Education by stating that OCR did not create any form of law.
The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights was reached for comment, but did return any requests.