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Administration Scored for Way It Handles Bias

January 02, 1986|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A House panel Wednesday criticized the Reagan Administration's handling of civil rights complaints lodged against the nation's schools and colleges.

The report by the House Committee on Government Operations urged the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights to adopt new guidelines on when it will refer a case to the Justice Department and when it will act on its own.

It also said the federal civil rights agency should not let colleges get off the hook for past segregation violations just by making a good-faith attempt to remedy the problems.

Instead, the report said, "the violations must be corrected, regardless of the good faith in which a given desegregation plan was implemented."

Two Days of Hearings

The Democratic-controlled committee report was based on an investigation and two days of hearings last July and September by its subcommittee on intergovernmental relations and human resources.

Rep. Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.), the subcommittee chairman, clashed at both hearings with Harry Singleton, the outgoing assistant secretary for civil rights in the Education Department.

The majority report faulted the Office for Civil Rights' handling of an investigation of Dillon County, S.C., School District No. 2. Separate investigations in 1977, 1979 and 1982 led the OCR to conclude that the district was making class assignments in a racially discriminatory way.

The OCR did not refer the Dillon case to the Justice Department for enforcement until 1983. Justice refused to prosecute it and the OCR did not initiate an Administration action against the Dillon schools until last September, the report said.

Weiss said in a statement: "The Dillon case and others we reviewed reveal flagrant examples of how the Administration has derailed civil rights law enforcement. . . . The Administration only attempts to remedy discrimination after enormous pressures are brought to bear upon it by the courts."

Singleton, in a telephone interview Tuesday, his last day in office, said he had not seen the report, "but it sounds like the same sort of nonsense he was trying to put forth at the hearing."

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