New York – On Thursday, January 18, 2018, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) is expected to vote on the nomination of Kenneth Marcus to serve as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education. The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) opposes Mr. Marcus’ nomination due to his failure to illustrate that he will protect the civil rights of marginalized students, including low-income students and students of color.
As a national coalition of advocacy and education organizations across 29 states and Washington D.C. working to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, DSC strongly asserts that Mr. Marcus’ background and his testimony during his confirmation hearing reveal that he is unfit to carry out the responsibilities of the Office for Civil Rights, which is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws in our nation’s schools. Mr. Marcus has written about limiting the use of disparate impact claims, even though this is a critical method for identifying and addressing discipline policies that may seem neutral but have a discriminatory impact on students of color.
During the hearing, when asked by Senator Murray if he could name a single thing that the Trump Administration has done regarding civil rights that he disagreed with, Mr. Marcus responded that he could not say. This statement is extremely troubling given the Administration’s consistent efforts to roll-back guidance and regulations that are intended to prevent schools and districts from discriminating against vulnerable student populations.
In addition, when asked during the hearing if he would intervene as Assistant Secretary if Black students in a school district were receiving lower quality teachers, fewer books, fewer AP classes and fewer educational resources than White students, Mr. Marcus would not commit to addressing this clear violation of civil rights laws that prohibit districts from providing students of color with inferior resources.
The Assistant Secretary for civil rights is responsible for ensuring that schools and districts across the country provide all students equal access to educational opportunity regardless of their backgrounds. Mr. Marcus has shown that he is unqualified to serve in this role.