Education Dept.’s Civil Rights Chief Steps Down Amid Controversy

That August, two days before the department notified the Alliance Defending Freedom that its complaint would be investigated, a civil rights enforcement director told staff members they “must have a draft for Ken’s review tomorrow,” according to emails reviewed by The New York Times.

A staff lawyer complied with an order to send a letter to the group on Aug. 7 notifying them the case had been opened, but said her team would “appreciate a discussion about the legal theory and, much simpler, the time frame/scope of the investigation.” On Aug. 8, after the letter was issued, the enforcement director ordered members of the team to start drafting a request for data, saying they would “talk in the future about the precise legal framework to apply.”

After Mr. Bensing revealed the correspondence to The Washington Blade, Mr. Marcus ordered an investigation of the disclosures. Mr. Bensing confessed, and said he faced retaliation and left the department in January. His whistle-blower complaint, first reported by HuffPost, was dismissed. In May, the department ruled that policies in Connecticut that allow transgender students to participate in athletics based on gender identity violate federal civil rights law.

“They just interpreted the law the way they wanted to, and more than that, they used those interpretations to attack people,” Mr. Bensing said. “As a former civil servant, my fear is that this administration, and Ken Marcus in particular, has tarnished the reputation of our government so much that no one is ever going to have any faith in how our federal government interprets our civil rights protections ever again.”

Mr. Marcus declined to discuss the complaints against him, but Education Department officials defended his handling of the Rutgers and Connecticut cases against what they called “recycled claims” by organizations opposed to Mr. Marcus’s “longstanding work to fight anti-Semitism.”

Other matters “relate to ongoing enforcement matters on which we cannot comment,” the department said in a statement, continuing, “We would note that all of the claims amount to criticism that Assistant Secretary Marcus has been overly vigorous in his opposition to various forms of discrimination.”

The department said that Mr. Marcus’s resignation was not connected to the complaints.

On July 9, Mr. Marcus said on Twitter that he was returning to private life. The next day, the Louis D. Brandeis Center, the Jewish civil rights group he oversaw before joining the administration, announced that he would return as chairman of its board on Aug. 1.




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