It said the current administration averages 11 resolutions that required a change each year, compared to nine averaged under the Obama administration. In fiscal year 2018, the agency obtained more resolutions with change in these categories than the previous administration had achieved in any one year.
Department officials acknowledged that the previous administration fared better when looking broadly at how all cases were resolved — which is what the Center for American Progress did — but noted that the previous administration’s numbers appear better because it resolved fewer cases.
“A parent wants to know, if their child’s civil rights are being violated, will O.C.R. provide for a change,” Ms. Hill said, referring to the department’s Office for Civil Rights. “Under this administration, it is more likely that it will. The numbers speak for themselves if assessed objectively.”
But critics say the department’s metric for success ignores a large volume of students.
“If you’re just rushing through complaints, it’s not surprising that you would resolve a large volume,” said Shabab Ahmed Mirza, who co-authored the center’s report. “What we’ve found is that more students are having cases resolved and not seeing justice. They’re not talking about students who see no change at all.”
Ms. Mirza said that one finding in particular undercut the department’s claim that the Obama administration’s civil rights office was pushing a political agenda.
Of the complaints that were investigated, the Obama administration was twice as likely to find after an investigation that a school had not violated students’ rights.
Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the Office for Civil Rights under the Obama administration and issued the transgender guidance, said that is because her administration was “investigating the facts where they lead, and calling balls and strikes as they were.”
“To receive the signoff that you have not harmed children, it’s a very significant resolution and it means a lot,” Ms. Lhamon said. “What the Trump administration is doing is not even examining whether anyone’s been harmed. There’s a benefit to examining whether a student has been discriminated against, even when the answer is no.”