ABA Legal Education Section Plans to Send Another Diversity Standard, Revisions for Distance Learning Requirements to HOD
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A law school accreditation standard calls for every opportunity for underrepresented groups, and on Friday the ABA’s Legal Education and Bar Admissions Section Board approved a proposed revision to clarify that the standard does not allow schools to engage in “racial balancing” or limit the representation of individuals from any group.
The proposed revision to Standard 206 is one of various suggested changes that are expected to be submitted to the ABA House of Delegates as early as August 2022 at the annual meeting.
Earlier this month, the House of Delegates approved a plan to add “ethnicity,” “gender identity or expression” and “military status” to Standard 205, which puts the emphasis on non-discrimination and opportunity. He also approved a requirement for standard 303, which focuses on the curriculum, that law schools provide training on bias, cross-cultural skills and racism.
With respect to the most recent proposed revisions to Standard 206, a notice and comment was issued, and concerns were expressed that earlier proposals were not consistent with existing case law, according to a Note from the Standards Committee of February 10.
The memo states that law schools affiliated with religions are not required under the standard to “act in a manner inconsistent with the essential elements of their religious values and beliefs,” so long as the actions of the faculties are protected by applicable law. The issue of state law and affirmative action is also addressed in the memo.
“For law schools in jurisdictions that prohibit the consideration of race and ethnicity in employment and admissions decisions, Standard 206 does not require consideration of race and ethnicity. ethnicity in such decisions,” the memo reads.
Others who participated in the notice and comment questioned whether focusing on race and ethnicity in the standard creates a “two-tier” system of diversity, equity and inclusion, which “prioritizes racial and ethnic diversity at the expense of LGBTQ+ people and disability”. diversity,” the memo reads.
Proposed revisions to the distance education standards were also approved by the board. The group voted in favor of revising the definition to clarify that a course will only be considered distance learning if all professors teaching it are separate from students. If some students who take an in-person class attend remotely, the class is still considered to be in-person, according to the memo.
In addition, the board approved a proposed revision that removes a 10-credit-hour distance learning limit and replaces it with language indicating that up to one-third of a law degree’s credit hours may be provided by distance education. The suggested change falls under Standard 311, which deals with academic programs and calendars.
And in other council business, the group approved a plan to move forward by reserving one of its 21 voting seats for a lawyer with less than 10 years’ experience. The proposal also seeks to change existing regulations regarding the Young Lawyers Division’s liaisons with council so they can attend closed council meetings. A Note from the Standards Committee of February 8 details the suggested changes.
Under ABA rules, bylaw changes must be approved by the ABA’s Board of Governors, which meets in June, and voted on at the August 2022 chapter business meeting, according to a November 2021 Standards Committee Note.
The YLD requested in 2017 to have two lawyers with less than five years of practice as board members. The board rejected the proposal, but in 2018 it appointed Daniel R. Thies, a 2010 Harvard Law School graduate, to the board. The Urbana, Illinois attorney now chairs its standards committee and is a member of its finance and governance committees.