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PFAW Statement on Radical Leadership at Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights

Press Release
Drew Courtney
People For the American Way
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Earlier this week U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos named Candice Jackson as acting assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights. According to media reports, Jackson brings a limited professional history in civil rights but a long record of pushing extreme ideology regarding race and gender. She’s also dismissed the sizable group of women who have accused President Donald Trump of sexual assault as “fake victims” and spent time working at the far-right group Judicial Watch.

“The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights plays a critical role in protecting the rights of students to get a quality education without facing bigotry or discrimination at school,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president at People For the American Way. “It’s extraordinarily troubling that someone like Candice Jackson would be entrusted with that responsibility, even in a temporary capacity. She’s made clear that she’s more interested in pushing an extreme agenda than in protecting students. That’s unacceptable.”

Jackson has opposed programs aimed at supporting students of color on college campuses, arguing that “No one, least of all the minority student, is well served by receiving special treatment based on race or ethnicity.” Jackson has also claimed that she was discriminated against for being white due to the existence of a class section designed for students of color. She’s derided the efforts of young women who “[band] together by gender to fight for their rights” as “moving backwards, not forwards” because “in today’s society, women have the same opportunities as men to advance their careers, raise families, and pursue their personal goals.”

“There’s absolutely no question that Candice Jackson is unfit to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights,” said Baker. “Putting someone who has a history of hostility to civil rights in charge of protecting those very rights is unconscionable—especially when we’re talking about the rights of children and youth. Unfortunately, in the Trump administration, this is less the exception than the rule.”

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.