New College of Florida under investigation for alleged civil rights violation

CNN  — 

The US Department of Education says it’s investigating a complaint filed against New College of Florida alleging discrimination based on disability, according to a letter sent to the college’s interim president.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights said it plans to investigate “whether the College, on the basis of disability, excluded qualified persons with disabilities from participation in, denied them the benefits of, or otherwise subjected them to discrimination in its programs, activities, aids, benefits, or services,” attorney David Kutch with the Office of Civil Rights, wrote.

The agency also plans to investigate whether New College of Florida “failed to take appropriate steps to ensure that its communications with applicants, participants, members of the public, and companions with disabilities are as effective as its communications with others,” Kutch wrote.

The details of the complaint regarding the disability discrimination are not known and the Department of Education said it will not comment.

A separate civil rights complaint was also filed last month against New College of Florida accusing the board of trustees of rolling out “discriminatory policies targeting LGBTQ+ students” and taking other “overtly hostile actions” towards students, faculty, and staff “on the basis of race, gender, religion, and disability,” according to a redacted document provided to CNN by Jennifer Granick, a New College of Florida alumna.

The Department of Education wouldn’t comment on the LGBTQ discrimination complaint.

When reached by CNN, Nathan March, a spokesperson for New College, said in a statement:

“We are aware of the anonymous complaint that was purportedly sent to the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice, a complaint that was first sent to the media and was never sent to the college. The anonymous complaint details many false claims meant to grab headlines, and it is important to note that the only claim that is being looked into is the disability compliance claim, of which we are confident the DOE will also find to be without merit.”

New College of Florida has been undergoing a conservative makeover since January, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis installed a conservative majority on the board of trustees that led to the appointment of a new president. In March, trustees abolished the Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence, and in August, the board voted to begin the process of dismantling the gender studies program.

As a result of changes at the college, over a third of the faculty have left, according to trustee Dr. Amy Reid. A shortage of faculty led to courses being canceled for the fall semester.


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