U.S. Fee on Civil Rights Appoints Its First Latina Chair

Photo Credits: The University of Texas Law School

The US Civil Rights Commission appoints its first Latina chair

The US Civil Rights Commission has unanimously approved the appointment of President Biden as civil rights attorney and educator Norma V. Cantú as its new chairman. The commission’s recent appointment makes her the first Latina to serve as chair of the commission. She succeeds Catherine E. Lhamon, who chaired the commission for four years.

Commenting on her most recent appointment, she said, “I look forward to advancing the mission of the Civil Rights Commission our nation faces today, in collaboration with my esteemed colleagues on the US Civil Rights Commission.”

She is Professor of Education and Law at the University of Texas at Austin. She specializes in the Disabled Americans Act (ADA) and education law. During the Clinton administration, she served as Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights for eight years from 1993 to 2001. She was also a member of the Biden-Harris Transition Education Agency Review Team. She also served on the board of directors of the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education.

During her role as Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, she oversaw approximately 850 members who worked to implement the government’s civil rights policy in American education. Her other achievements during her tenure as assistant secretary include eliminating more than a third of cases based on voluntary corrective action with no adversarial procedures, increasing the resolution of complaints of illegal discrimination by 20% in the first two years of her tenure In her last year in the office, the number of cases resolved annually has increased by a further 20%.

She also worked for the Mexican-American Legal Protection and Education Fund for fourteen years, where she served as the Regional Counsel and Education Director. During that role, she has litigated a number of important cases related to disability rights, education funding, access to specialized services for English learners, racially hostile environments, and disciplinary guidelines for students.

She completed her JD from Harvard Law School at age 22 and graduated summa cum laude from University of Texas-Pan America at age 19.

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