May 31 (UPI) -- A group of three national civil rights organizations sued the Department of Education for new procedures that allow it to dismiss hundreds of civil rights complaints.
The National Federation of the Blind, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Maryland against the department Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson.
The groups requested a judge block the department from enforcing new provisions in the Office for Civil Rights Case Processing Manual, allowing it to dismiss complaints if they represent "a pattern of complaints previously filed with OCR by an individual or a group against multiple recipients," or complaints "filed for the first time against multiple recipients" that place "an unreasonable burden on OCR's resources."
The change also eliminates a complainant's right to appeal a claim.
The lawsuit argues the Education Department was "arbitrary and capricious" in changing the manual in March without notifying the public, giving an explanation or providing a chance to comment.
"Obviously, we abhor meritless civil rights complaints, but whether a complaint is actually meritorious should be determined by proper investigation," the National Federation of the Blind said in a statement. "There is no good reason for OCR to ignore a complaint simply because the complainant has rightfully challenged discrimination before. That approach denies due process to those who bring complaints in good faith and flouts the anti-discrimination laws that OCR is supposed to enforce."
The lawsuit also notes that civil rights complaints are regularly filed by people who are victims of discrimination or groups that represent them and that the manual contains no definition for a "pattern."
"The ban on complaints from persons or entities who have made complaints in the past or complaints against multiple recipients of federal funds directly contradicts the DOE regulations requiring that all complaints be investigated," the complaint states. "Neither regulations nor statutes empower DOE's OCR to limit the complaints that will be investigated in this fashion."