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37 Civil Rights Organizations Ask Department of Education to Ensure Protections for Religious Minority and Nonreligious Students in Collecting Civil Rights Data

Washington, D.C.—Today, American Atheists joined 36 other civil rights organizations in offering improvements to how the U.S. Department of Education plans to collect civil rights data about students.

“Disaggregated data reported in the Civil Rights Data Collection (CDRC) by race, ethnicity, native language, socioeconomic status, English learner status, disability status, disability type, and sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity) help us to know about students’ experiences in schools and whether all students have equal access to education,” wrote the 37 civil rights groups. “Any change to limit the scope, frequency, or public accessibility of the CRDC would hamper the ability of the department to fulfill its legal obligations and undermine our shared interest in the best education for every child.”

Among many other suggestions, the organizations advised that the Department of Education exercise caution if it moves forward with separating out experiences of bullying based on religion.

“Disaggregating experiences of religion-based harassment may help us to understand students’ experience of school and to ensure that all students have access to equal education, but it is essential that this data be handled with sensitivity and confidentiality,” wrote the groups. “Investigation and reporting on student religious beliefs has the potential to result in religious discrimination and coercion, particularly for students who are religious minorities or atheists. The proposed new item should be paired with additional training and best practices for school districts to ensure sensitivity and confidentiality regarding student religious beliefs and affiliations.”

Read below the full comment letter of The Leadership Conference, which the 37 civil rights organizations, including American Atheists, signed on to, and of which 220 national civil rights organizations are members.

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