• The San Juan Daily Star

Resident commissioner cosponsors anti-discrimination bill for students in higher education

By John McPhaul

U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón (R-P.R.) introduced on Monday the Law for the Protection of Civil Rights of Students, a bipartisan measure to address the inequity that students at institutions of higher education in the United States may face due to their race.

The measure will require institutions of higher education to designate at least one employee to coordinate compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The coordinators would be responsible for reporting Title VI compliance to the Secretary of Education. Under Title VI, institutions of higher education have a responsibility to address discrimination based on race, color or national origin to ensure that their campuses are safe learning environments for each and every student.

“We have to take proactive steps to make higher education more accessible to students of all backgrounds. Institutions can help level the playing field and enable students of color and those from underserved communities to flourish in their future careers, but only if we ensure that those students have the opportunity to succeed without harassment or discrimination,” Aguilar said. “I am proud to introduce this bill to ensure that all students in the Inland Empire [sector of his district] and across the country can access an education free from discrimination.”

González Colón noted that “Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal funds.”

“Although much progress has been made, unfortunately we still find examples of this behavior, even within the educational system,” the resident commissioner said. “In fiscal year 2019, for example, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights received 2,660 complaints containing 3,673 complaints of discrimination in violation of Title VI. It is essential that our educational institutions have the necessary processes to work on these cases, in particular our higher school entities. That is why I am proud to join Congressman Aguilar in filing the Law for the Protection of Civil Rights of Students, which would require that each institution of higher education designate an employee to coordinate compliance with Title VI.”

The bill also garnered endorsement from California community colleges.

“Protecting the civil rights of our students is central to the California Community Colleges mission of fairness and our vision for success,” said Dr. Daisy Gonzales, acting chancellor of California Community Colleges. As we seek to close equity gaps, ensuring that students are not discriminated against on the basis of race, color, or national origin is an essential first step, and this legislation provides a vital tool in fighting that discrimination. We are pleased to support this effort on behalf of California Community Colleges and our 2.1 million students. We thank Representatives Aguilar and González Colón for protecting our students.”

The bill for the protection of the civil rights of students is under the jurisdiction of the Education and Labor Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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