Trump administration revokes Obama-era guidance on affirmative action in schools

Reversing policies that asked universities to consider race as a factor in admitting students, the Trump administration announced July 3 that it would revoke several Obama-era guidelines on affirmative action. In taking this step, the Trump administration signaled that it “will champion race-blind admissions standards,” The New York Times reports.

The Education and Justice Departments issued a joint statement, in which they said the Obama-era guidelines “advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution.” “The executive branch cannot circumvent Congress or the courts by creating guidance that goes beyond the law and—in some instances—stays on the books for decades,” Devin M. O’Malley, a Justice Department spokesman, told The New York Times.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote in another statement that the Supreme Court’s written decisions “are the best guide for navigating this complex issue. Schools should continue to offer equal opportunities for all students while abiding by the law.”

Critics voice concerns about erosion of civil rights protections

However, some former Obama administration officials said rescinding the guidance will further confuse civil rights practices in schools. “The Supreme Court has been consistent over decades in its rulings on lawful use of race in affirmative action, and the guidance the Trump administration rescinds today offered nothing more than a clear and practical statement of the law and how to comply with it,” Catherine Lhamon, who served as assistant education secretary for civil rights in the Obama administration, told the Chicago Tribune. “Taking away that guidance undermines the steps toward equity school communities have long been taking.”

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