The Department of Education will keep questions introduced by the Trump administration for teacher-on-student sex crimes in its biannual civil rights survey, the agency announced this week.
The department on Monday withdrew its proposed Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2021-22 school year, Education Week reported. Unlike the Trump-era proposal, the survey had not included questions on the number of sexual assault allegations lodged against teachers. Former education secretary Betsy DeVos had also included questions asking whether allegations resulted in the resignation or retirement of the accused prior to a settlement in the case.
The Washington Free Beacon reported last month that Biden's Education Department had eliminated the questions, which were part of a Trump-era effort to collect data on teacher-student sex crimes. At the time, a department spokesman told the Free Beacon the move was intended to "reduce burden" on school officials. The Education Department told Education Week that it reversed its decision after "further reflection."
DeVos introduced the questions after the the 2017-2018 Office for Civil Rights survey found a rise in sexual violence in schools. That survey catalogued nearly 15,000 cases of rape, attempted rape, and sexual assault but did not distinguish between teacher-on-student and student-on-student incidents.
The DeVos Education Department added the optional questions in an effort to paint a more comprehensive picture of sexual violence in schools. The questions were first included in the department's 2020-21 data collection proposal, which was delayed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Reporting allegations in addition to documented cases is vital, former Office for Civil Rights officials told the Free Beacon, as the accused may retire, resign, or seek other employment before a district can reach a conclusion in the case.
Kimberly Richey, who served as acting assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights in the Trump administration, told the Free Beacon that eliminating those questions amounted to "the ultimate act of bowing to the teachers' unions."
The rise of sex crimes in schools has become a political liability for Democrats and their union allies. In Virginia, allegations that school officials in Loudoun County covered up a double sexual assault case enraged parents just weeks before the gubernatorial election. Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, who enlisted the support of national teachers' unions during his campaign, lost to Republican Glenn Youngkin by a two-point margin.
Education Week noted that it is "unusual" for the department to withdraw its data collection proposal prior to the conclusion of a two-month public comment period. Public comment for its revised data collection proposal will close Feb. 11.