Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection Expands with Questions on Viruses, Discipline, and Gender | Education News

When the Education Department is surveying schools this school year for its lengthy collection of civil rights data, it plans to introduce several new items – including asking them how they delivered education during the pandemic as well as ‘By providing non-binary gender categories for issues previously limited to women. and male, according to documents obtained by US News.

The long-standing investigation, conducted by the Office of Civil Rights, is already remarkable in that it is the first time since its inception in 1968 that the office has collected such data in consecutive years. But this year, the effort is also being put in place to restore the collection of some data deleted under the Trump administration, including disciplinary measures suffered by children in kindergarten.

“Collecting civil rights data provides crucial information for assessing student experiences in US public schools,” Assistant Civil Rights Secretary Catherine Lhamon said in a statement provided to US News. “Especially given the COVID-19 pandemic, today’s announcement of the proposed data elements for 2021-2022 collection comes at a critical time. “

The Civil Rights Data Collection is a repository of information from schools serving preschool to grade 12 students and includes data on student access to certain courses and school staff as well as climate factors school, such as the use of student discipline and incidents of bullying. The department’s Office of Civil Rights uses the data when investigating complaints alleging discrimination to determine whether federal civil rights laws have been violated or initiates its own reviews to identify particularly acute civil rights compliance issues or at national scale.

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The new data collected would focus on school district responses to COVID-19, including the extent to which schools were offering and delivering distance, hybrid, or in-person education, the amount of virtual instruction used each day, the percentage students exposed to virtual instruction as well as a district’s ability to provide Wi-Fi-connected devices and hotspots to students.

“COVID-19-related data is critical to understanding how the ongoing pandemic has affected student access to education and efforts by educators nationwide to meet the needs of public school students.” , indicates the document. “The data would also allow us to understand the disparities in the occurrence of distance learning linked to the pandemic.”

Another novelty – and optional – would be the addition of a non-binary gender category for school districts that already collect such information. The non-binary category, as defined by the Civil Rights Office, would be for students who do not identify exclusively as male or female. The definition would not refer to transgender students who identify exclusively as male or female.

“The inclusion of a non-binary gender category would allow OCR to capture data that would provide a better understanding of the experiences of non-binary students and help advance OCR’s mission to enforce the ban on sex. Title IX on discrimination based on sex, which includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, ”the documents say.

Data the Civil Rights Office would like to restore includes the number of preschool children who receive an out-of-school suspension and – separately – the number of students who receive more than one out-of-school suspension, with an emphasis on the number of students with disabilities who fall into each category.

Administrations have a great deal of latitude to add and subtract various data points.

For the 2020-21 collection, former President Donald Trump’s education department added questions about religious bullying – the next collection will expand on this by asking if school districts have written policies explicitly prohibiting bullying and harassment on the basis of race / ethnicity, gender or religion. – and new data points on sexual assaults committed by school personnel.

But former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos drew fierce criticism from civil rights activists when the collection was significantly reduced in recent years in an attempt to cut red tape for school administrators, especially in this regard. which concerns the data on preschool suspension disaggregated by different subgroups of pupils, school-level of expenditure and teacher absenteeism, all of which are in the process of being reinstated.

Various early childhood education data points would also be restored for the next collection, including whether school districts provide early childhood services to children, from birth to age 2, to age 3. years and children of 4 and 5 years. , whether the programs are provided by the school district or contracted out, as well as the length of the day, the price and whether registration is priority for low-income families, students with disabilities and those still learning English .

This specific restoration would come as Congress prepares to pass the Build Back Better program, which includes roughly $ 400 billion for child care and universal preschool.

Other data the Civil Rights Office would like to restore include the number of English learners enrolled in English classes, the number of students in credit recovery programs, and those enrolled in at least one AP class. , as well as the number of full-time teachers – as well as the specified length of experience – number of full-time teachers absent for more than 10 school days and number of teachers employed by schools for the last year school and this year.

In addition, the Civil Rights Office plans to revise the definitions of “mechanical restraint,” “physical restraint” and “isolation” in an effort to collect more specific data on an issue it is working on with the Department of Justice to investigate: abuse and abuse practices in the name of discipline in a handful of school districts.

For example, physical restraint refers to “a personal restriction, imposed by a school staff member or other person, that immobilizes or reduces a student’s ability to freely move their torso, arms, legs. or his head ”. However, this does not include a physical escort, in which there is temporary contact or holding of a hand, wrist, arm, shoulder or back that does not continue after the ‘arrival at a safe place. And when it comes to seclusion, the term refers to “the involuntary confinement of a student to a room or area, with or without adult supervision, of which the student is not. authorized to leave ”. It does not include the separation of a student in an unlocked frame.

The 43-page notice of data collection for the current school year obtained by US News, including the rationale for adding new data, restoring old data, and revising data, should appear in the Federal Register Friday, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Education.

“The proposed additions reflect new data elements that OCR considers to be of pressing concern, such as the extent to which schools are providing virtual education to students during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the document said. “OCR believes these are areas where additional data is needed to better inform both the enforcement of civil rights and the provision of technical assistance. “

The changes, according to the document, were informed by recommendations from stakeholders, including listening sessions with school district leaders, school administrators, teachers and nonprofit education advocacy organizations. .

“The additional collection will allow the department to identify and address inequalities in educational opportunities as the country continues to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the academic, social and emotional development of students,” said the document. “Ongoing civil rights data regarding student experiences will help the ministry and school officials assess the initial impacts of the substantial increase in federal funding to schools and districts to ensure equitable access for students education and other activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. “


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