Press Room NEWSLETTERS
November 23, 2018

ED Review... a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other stakeholders

What's inside...
California Wildfires
Proposed Title IX Rule
OCR Manual
ESSA Update
IES Resources
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

California Wildfires

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster assistance has been made available to California to supplement state, local, and tribal recovery efforts in the areas affected by wildfires beginning on November 8, 2018, and continuing. The President's emergency declaration makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Butte, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties (fact sheet).

Hundreds of educational institutions statewide have been impacted by the wildfires, with schools closed in 22 counties due to evacuations or hazardous air quality.

The Department's primary role in natural disasters is to assist local school districts and institutions of higher education in recovery efforts. In addition to internal briefings, the agency is participating in interagency briefings being led by FEMA in order to understand the extent of the damage to educational infrastructure and the needs of educational stakeholders in the wake of the wildfires.

Beyond its many federal partners, the Department has reached out to the California Department of Education and institutions of higher education in the impacted areas and is coordinating recovery activities through these entities.

The full extent of the wildfires' impact will not be known for some time, but the agency will stay in close contact with its state and local partners.

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Proposed Title IX Rule

Last week, continuing its efforts to ensure equal access to education free from discrimination, the Department released its proposal on improving schools' response to sexual harassment and assault. The proposed regulation under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funds, was developed after more than a year of research, deliberation, and gathering input from students, school administrators, Title IX coordinators, advocates, and other stakeholders (fact sheet, background and section-by-section summary, and the pre-published full regulation).

"Throughout this process, my focus was, is, and always will be on ensuring that every student can learn in a safe and nurturing environment," Secretary DeVos emphasized. "That starts with having clear policies and fair processes that every student can rely on. Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined. We can, and must, condemn sexual violence and punish those who perpetrate it, while ensuring a fair grievance process. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas. They are the very essence of how Americans understand justice to function."

The proposed rule defines sexual harassment under Title IX and what it means for a student to report it, requires schools to respond meaningfully to every report of sexual harassment, and ensures that due process protections are in place for all students. Also, it seeks to ensure that all schools clearly understand their legal obligations under Title IX and all students clearly understand their options and rights.

"It is our goal…to ensure that Title IX grievance proceedings become more transparent, consistent, and reliable in their processes and outcomes," the Secretary noted. "Far too many students have been forced to go to court to ensure their rights are protected because the Department has not set out legally binding rules that hold schools accountable for responding to allegations of sexual harassment in a supportive, fair manner. By following proper legal procedures and receiving input on our proposed rule, we will ultimately have a final regulation that ensures that Title IX protects all students."

The rule will be open for public comment for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

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OCR Manual

This week, as part of its ongoing work to protect students' civil rights and effectively, efficiently, and fairly investigate civil rights complaints, the Department announced additional improvements to its Office for Civil Rights' (OCR) Case Processing Manual (CPM). The CPM provides guidelines for field investigators working to investigate and resolve complaints and to ensure that schools comply with the laws and regulations enforced by OCR.

"Our top priority in the Office for Civil Rights is ensuring all students have equal access to education free from discrimination," Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus stressed. "Since joining the OCR team in June, I've reviewed our [CPM] and received important and constructive feedback on it. While we continue to work to improve the timeliness of OCR's case processing, we have determined that additional revisions will help improve our work and allow us to be more responsive to students, stakeholders, and our staff."

As a complement to the CPM revisions, OCR is implementing post-case closure Quality Assurance Reviews to assure consistency and quality in case processing among the 12 regional OCR offices. OCR will also use the reviews to identify areas where further training is necessary, as well as to identify and share best practices among the regional offices.

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ESSA Update

In a letter to Chief State School Officers, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan outlines the formal process for states to submit amendments to their approved Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans. The Department expects, over time, states will review their plans and consider ways to strengthen them, as appropriate, to better address the educational needs of students. Yet, prior to implementing changes, states must submit amendments to the Department for its review and approval.

Also, consistent with the consolidated assurances each state submitted in June 2017 under ESSA, prior to submitting amendments to the Department, states must consult with their governors, afford a reasonable opportunity for public comment, and consider all feedback.

States may not implement a change until the amendment has been approved. Thus, it is recommended that states submit proposed amendments to the Department as much in advance of the desired date of implementation as possible. For example, any amendments related to accountability determinations for the 2019-20 school year must be received no later than March 1, 2019.

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IES Resources

It has been a prolific two weeks of releases from the Department's Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

For regular updates from IES and its centers, sign up for the News Flash alert service.

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Odds and Ends

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Quote to Note

"During American Education Week, we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that all Americans have access to an affordable, high-quality education. We also recognize the hard work of our nation's dedicated parents, guardians, teachers, and school leaders to ensure that every child is prepared to join today's growing workforce. To maintain our country's competitiveness, our students deserve a good education that empowers them with the knowledge, skills, and character necessary to reach their full potential…. My Administration has worked to empower states and local communities with greater control and flexibility over their schools. We are also protecting and expanding parents' access to a wide range of high-quality educational choices, including effective public, charter, magnet, private, parochial, online, and homeschool options."

        President Donald Trump (11/9/18), in a proclamation commemorating American Education Week (November 12-16)

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Upcoming Events

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funds tuition-free summer programs for K-12 educators and higher education faculty. Participants receive stipends to help cover travel and living expenses. Programs are held throughout the country. These one- to four-week study opportunities focus on important topics, texts, and questions in the humanities; enhance the intellectual vitality and professional development of participants; build a community of inquiry and strong models of scholarship and teaching; and promote connections between teaching and research in the humanities. The deadline for applications is March 1, 2019.

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Last Modified: 11/23/2018