KC Johnson writes for the Martin Center about a former Democratic education official who now generates controversy in Washington, D.C.
During the Obama administration, Catherine Lhamon worked in the Department of Education as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. She was known for her hyper-aggressive approach to Title IX. Now she has been nominated by President Biden for her old position.
Lhamon’s nomination has stirred up vehement opposition.
Her fate now rests in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, after her nomination deadlocked before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Schumer can file a discharge petition to bring her nomination to the floor, but that would consume valuable time that Senate Democrats might need for other items.
So we soon will find out how committed Senate Democrats are to restoring the symbol of Obama-era kangaroo courts.
The debate over the Lhamon nomination also has, perhaps unintentionally, revealed a significant shift in the media and legal culture surrounding Title IX and campus sexual assault.
Between 2013 and 2016, press coverage of Lhamon’s crusade was fawning, and only one Appeals Court had issued a ruling favorable to an accused student in a sexual assault case. In Lhamon’s current confirmation fight, by contrast, her supporters have been mostly silent, with her critics on the offensive, amidst a legal environment that has grown far more favorable to accused students. …
… By the time that Biden nominated Lhamon, the policy and legal debate around campus sexual assault had dramatically changed. Amidst a wave of lawsuits from accused students, state and federal courts have issued more than 200 rulings unfavorable to universities. (Lhamon has never publicly acknowledged even one of these court decisions.)
These rulings have included favorable offerings for accused students in the Third, Sixth (three decisions), Seventh, Eighth (two decisions), Ninth, and Tenth Circuits, covering a majority of states in the country. In many of these rulings, courts have cited the actions of OCR during Lhamon’s tenure as possibly contributing to gender-biased campus environments for accused students.