Last week, the Senate Education Committee held a confirmation hearing for a woman who arguably did more than any other government official to stoke the flames of America’s Cultural War: Catherine Lhamon.
President Joe Biden has appointed Lhamon to return for a second stint as assistant secretary in the Department of Education’s civil rights office. During his previous mandate, under former President Barack Obama, Lhamon transformed this office of guarantor of rights defined by law into an advanced operational base to enforce respect for liberal social dogma.
Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the leading Republican on the committee, described Lhamon’s track record as “deeply disturbing, if not downright disqualifying.” But he and his colleagues seemed focused on tackling the latest Culture War – on Title IX and allegations of campus sexual assault and abuse – rather than the Left’s Social Crusade of the Day: The Critical Theory. of the race.
Certainly, Lhamon’s track record on Title IX is worth examining. Under his leadership, the OCR forced colleges to adopt a new “preponderance of evidence” standard for investigating campus sex allegations – a standard by which critics left and right create a presumption of guilt.
When President Donald Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a regulation with more emphasis on due process, even the Washington Post’s liberal editorial board admitted DeVos was absolutely right.
Yet Lhamon tweeted that the DeVos rules “take us back to the bad days, before I was born, when it was allowed to rape and sexually harass students with impunity”. When Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) Asked about this statement, Lhamon backed it up, stating that the DeVos rule “allows students to rape and sexually harass with impunity.”
Lhamon displayed a similar cavalier disrespect for evidence and due process on another key issue: school discipline. Under his leadership, civil rights investigations became tools of harassment to force changes in school policies. These investigations would only end when school districts agreed to adopt lenient discipline policies, despite evidence that leniency destabilized classrooms and increased violence.
After leaving the OCR, Lhamon was appointed to head the United States Civil Rights Commission, where she oversaw a report on disciplinary disparities. The report concluded that despite substantial racial disparities in school suspensions, “students of color as a whole, as well as by individual racial group, do not commit more disciplinary offenses than their white peers.”
The Washington Post noted that the citations in the report “offered no such evidence. A data set referenced in the report showed the opposite. Either Lhamon had a botched understanding of the evidence on an issue she has been working on for years, or she willfully spread disinformation through America’s First Civil Rights Commission.
GOP senators did not challenge Lhamon over school discipline. Nor did they ask about the issue at the forefront of the minds of so many voters: critical race theory.
This year, Biden’s OCR suspended a ruling that Illinois’ Evanston / Skokie School District violated the Title VI ban on racial discrimination when it separated staff by race, asked. teachers to treat students differently based on race, publicly humiliated white students based on their race, and taught that “whiteness” was a contract with the devil.
The action sent a clear signal that the OCR did not intend to enforce anti-discrimination law to protect white students or teachers.
An OCR led by Lhamon could do much worse than non-enforcement in the future. During his previous tenure at OCR, his modus operandi was to fabricate new interpretations of what civil rights law requires, then tell educational institutions that they could lose federal funding unless they do not “voluntarily” agree to adhere to these precepts.
No one should be surprised if Lhamon applied CRT, by forcing school districts to enter into “voluntary” resolution agreements that require “anti-racist audits,” mandates race-based professional development on teachers or stipulates the hiring of diversity consultants and staff.
Unless a Democratic senator decides to oppose her or abstain, Lhamon’s nomination is almost assured. The question is whether Congress Republicans will have the courage to exercise proper oversight and determine if – and how – she turns the Office of Civil Rights into the Office of Critical Race Theory.
Max Eden is a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute. Adapted from City Journal.