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Ed. Department must protect rights, says Americans United. (In The Capital).

The U.S. Education Department should explicitly prohibit religious discrimination in after-school programs, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State and its allies.

To implement the "No Child Left Behind" Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January, the Department of Education prepared guidelines for non-governmental organizations, including religious groups, that receive direct public funding to provide after-school services for students.

When Congress passed the law, Americans United and other groups successfully sought to include civil rights protections in the legislation that would have forbid religious discrimination in publicly funded programs. The Department of Education's proposed rules to carry out the law, however, were silent on civil rights.

In a March 1 letter to Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige, Americans United and 28 other organizations argued that "the guidance, in its current form, omits critical information on civil rights standards" that are part of the law.

"Congress inserted explicit civil rights language into the `No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,'" the letter said. "These civil rights protections were essential, given the structure of these programs, in which nongovernmental groups would be contracting with government to perform educational services.... The exclusion of these civil rights protections in the guidance is very troubling, and hopefully an oversight."

In subsequent meetings with officials from the Department of Education, the groups were told the omission was a mistake, and that the guidelines would be corrected.
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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