The Department of Education is proposing to roll back attempts at collecting additional data on teacher-perpetrated sexual assaults, prompting concerns about transparency in reporting faculty misconduct.
Data collection, under last week's proposal, would continue to include the number of documented incidents at a given school, but would retire Trump-era reporting on "rape or attempted rape, or sexual assault" allegations that were followed by "a resignation or retirement prior to final discipline or termination."
Former Secretary Betsy DeVos reportedly added those provisions for 2020-2021 data collection, but that was delayed due to COVID-19.
An Education Department spokesperson defended the move as a way to "reduce burden and duplication of data."
"The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) strives to ensure the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) data are an accurate and comprehensive depiction of student access to educational opportunities in school districts," the spokesperson told Fox News.
"For the 2021-22 CRDC, OCR will continue to collect data on the number of documented incidents of offenses committed by school staff, including rape or attempted rape, and sexual assault. These are data the CRDC has collected since 2015-16. We propose retiring data on the number of allegations made against school staff to reduce burden and duplication of data. This is a proposal and OCR welcomes feedback on this proposal from the public during the 60-day comment period" (emphasis in bold by the spokesperson).
But critics like Kimberly Richey, former acting assistant secretary in the OCR under President Trump, have accused the Biden administration of changing the provisions in order to appease teachers unions.
Richey called it the "ultimate act of bowing to the teachers unions," according to The Washington Free Beacon.
"Through this proposal, the Biden administration is actively helping schools cover up these incidents, which we were intentionally shining a light on," she told the Free Beacon.
It's one of several data elements that the Education Department has proposed retiring, including information about other alleged criminal activity at the school.
The department suggested retiring the following elements:
- "Whether any of the school’s students, faculty, or staff died as a result of a homicide committed at the school";
- "Whether there has been at least one incident at the school that involved a shooting";
- "Number of allegations made against a school staff member of rape or attempted rape, or sexual assault that occurred at the school, which were followed by a determination that the school staff member was responsible or not responsible for the offense";
- "Number of allegations made against a school staff member of rape or attempted rape, or sexual assault that occurred at the school, which had a determination that remained pending";
- "Number of allegations made against a school staff member of rape or attempted rape, or sexual assault that occurred at the school, which were followed by a duty reassignment prior to final discipline or termination."
According to last week's press release, the department is adding data elements related to COVID-19 and students with disabilities who receive special education. It's also including a "non-binary option to male/female data categories for those schools and districts that already collect that data."
The department's latest move comes at a time of heightened tension surrounding sexuality, gender and sexual assault in public schools. Virginia is still reeling from the alleged sexual assault in Loudoun County Public Schools that rocked its gubernatorial race this fall, while parents have raised concerns about students being asked about their gender and sexuality.
The issue is thought to have contributed to Democrats' loss in the state, which has become more blue in recent years.
The National Education Association and National Federation of Teachers did not immediately respond to Fox News' requests for comment.