*President Joe Biden has nominated Catherine Lhamon to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, according to a White House official. Lhamon held the same position in the Obama administration.
If confirmed, Lhamon would have a highly visible role in determining how the federal government addresses LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct and racial discrimination in the nation’s K-12 schools and colleges.
Lhamon, a former American Civil Liberties Union attorney, is currently a domestic policy adviser at the White House, focusing on racial justice issues, and was chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2017 to 2021. She led the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights from 2013 to 2017, when the Obama administration emphasized tackling sexual assault on college campuses.
Lhamon’s nomination is the latest example of the White House steering civil rights policy back toward the Obama administration’s approach and is likely to please advocacy groups for victims of sexual assault and civil rights organizations. But she could face opposition from Republican senators who have said that the Obama administration’s Education Department overreached with its directives on Title IX, the gender equity law.
Under Lhamon’s leadership, the Education Department’s civil rights office expanded the scope of gender and racial discrimination investigations. The move drew harsh criticism from some school administrators, though advocates for victims argued that these wide-ranging probes helped more students. Lhamon also issued joint guidance with the Department of Justice in 2016 directing schools to treat students consistent with their gender identity — including allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their identity — which resulted in lawsuits by Republican state leaders
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