Number of civil rights complaints to Dept. of Education on the rise, possibly because Bush administration had a reputation of inaction.

(AP) African American boys who are suspended at double and triple the rates of their white male peers. English language learners who, for years, remain in separate classes, falling behind their peers and scoring poorly on standardized tests. Disabled students and those with illnesses who are shortchanged at school because of their impairments.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights received nearly 7,000 complaints this fiscal year, an 11 percent increase and the largest jump in at least 10 years, according to data provided by the department. The increase comes as the office proceeds with 54 compliance reviews in districts and institutions of higher education nationwide, including cases involving disparate discipline rates and treatment of students with disabilities.

Why the spike?

Russlynn Ali, director of the Office for Civil Rights, said the reason for the increase in complaints is unclear, but believes students, parents and administrators have more faith that officials will take action.

Gerald A. Reynolds, head of OCR for the Bush administration from 2001 to 2003, said the increase is more likely a reflection of the different approach taken by Democrats — with Republicans running the civil rights office as a law-enforcement shop, and Democrats focusing on social change.

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