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On ‘Bloody Sunday’ anniversary, US vows to step up civil rights enforcement

Associated Press / March 8, 2010

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NEW YORK - The federal Department of Education plans to intensify its civil rights enforcement efforts in schools around the country, including a deeper look at issues ranging from programs for immigrant students learning English to equal access to college preparatory courses.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will outline the department’s efforts in a speech today in Alabama to commemorate the 45th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,’’ in which several hundred civil rights protesters were beaten by state troopers on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge during a voting rights march.

The department plans to conduct 38 compliance reviews around 40 different issues this year, officials said.

Yesterday in Selma, Ala., Representative John Lewis of Georgia walked to the middle of the Edmund Pettus Bridge and remembered the “Bloody Sunday’’ attack. Lewis spoke about the beating he and other marchers received during the 1965 march. He then joined about 10,000 in a recreation of the march.

Also yesterday in Washington, President Obama marked the 45th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday’’ by praising the heroes who marched into history that day. The president said that despite all the progress since then, more still needs to be done.

On Saturday, Alabama’s Legislative Black Caucus called on Duncan to cancel an appearance at Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery. Duncan’s office said yesterday that he will meet with students as planned.

State Representative Alvin Holmes said the school and its principal publicly opposed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the march. Holmes said it was “insulting’’ to King and civil rights protesters that Obama’s top education aide was scheduled to appear at the school.