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Key Democratic Senator Calls to Oust Department of Education's Civil Rights Chief

Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) said early Monday that the acting head of the Department of Education office charged with enforcing civil rights laws in the nation's schools, Candice Jackson, is not fit for the job.

Advocates for victims and women have been excoriating Jackson since her comments last week to the New York Times that "90 percent" of campus sexual assault complaints "fall into the category of 'we were both drunk,' 'we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.'" Jackson apologized for her comments the next day: "As a survivor of rape myself, I would never seek to diminish anyone's experience.... My words in the New York Times poorly characterized the conversations I've had with countless groups of advocates."

Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate committee charged with overseeing education policy issues, was apparently unsatisfied with the apology, arguing in a statement that "[Jackson] crossed a serious line and highlighted her clear biases in this area in a way that, to me and many women and men across the country, should disqualify her from service in the position of top Department of Education protector of students' right to be safe at school."

Jackson's appointment as assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights—a roll that does not require Senate confirmation—was among Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' most controversial hires. Jackson has criticized affirmative action and the women's rights movement, and defended the women who accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault and mistreatment in a 2005 book. The department's civil rights enforcement office has over 500 employees and investigates thousands of civil rights complaints each year.

Murray is known for being a key dealmaker in the Senate, and not for her partisan mudslinging; her comments suggest that Jackson—and DeVos—will have a tough time avoiding serious scrutiny and resistance in rolling back the Obama administration's expansive civil rights agenda.