The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is implementing a new protocol that will allow its investigators to dismiss cases they consider “onerous or unnecessary.”
According to Friday New York Times report, the changes are supposed to help the department manage its docket more efficiently by eliminating cases that show “a pattern of complaints previously filed with O.C.R. by an individual or a group against multiple recipients,” or those that place “an unreasonable burden on O.C.R.’s resources.”
Although the Times reports that over 500 disability rights complaints have already been dismissed using the new protocols, it is believed that eliminating these “frequent flyers” will make the department better able to serve legitimate complaints.
Strikingly, 41 percent of the 16,720 complaints filed in 2016 came from the same three individuals, and three people made up 23 percent of the 12,837 cases filed in 2017.
The new procedures prohibit complainants from using media reports to file cases. It also eliminates the appeals process whereby Office of Civil Rights decisions could be challenged.
While the move certainly has its critics, the Times quotes attorney Debora L. Osgood, a 25 year Office for Civil Rights veteran and current school consultant, as saying that the Department of Education was “essentially taking the reins back for control of its complaint docket.”
“In effect, [the previous policy] turned over the decision-making about how the agency would use many of its resources to a single individual, rather than to agency officials and staff charged with the responsibility for implementing the agency’s stated mission,” Osgood said about how one person could impact the process with unlimited complaints.