Washington (CNN)- The Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a set of Obama-era policies that promoted using race to achieve diversity in schools, teeing up new battle lines over admissions standards.
While the decision does not change current US law on affirmative action, it provides a strong illustration of the administration's position on an issue that could take on renewed attention with the departure of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the official announcement Tuesday afternoon.
"The American people deserve to have their voices heard and a government that is accountable to them. When issuing regulations, federal agencies must abide by constitutional principles and follow the rules set forth by Congress and the President," Sessions said. "In previous administrations, however, agencies often tried to impose new rules on the American people without any public notice or comment period, simply by sending a letter or posting a guidance document on a website. That's wrong, and it's not good government."
The Education Department did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
The move, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, comes as the administration has thrown its weight behind a student group that accuses Harvard University of discriminating against Asian-Americans in its admissions process.
In a statement to CNN, Harvard spokeswoman Melodie Jackson said that it will "continue to vigorously defend its right, and that of all colleges and universities, to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court for more than 40 years."
Last year, Sessions announced that he was ending the practice of the Justice Department issuing "guidance documents" that have the "effect of adopting new regulatory requirements or amending the law" but do not go through the formal rulemaking process. As a result, 25 documents were rescinded in December and 24 additional ones were rescinded Tuesday, including seven related to affirmative action.
The guidance reversed Tuesday provided examples of different educational contexts within which institutions could permissibly consider race and answered questions about how to interpret Supreme Court decisions.
Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley told CNN earlier Tuesday that the department "remains committed to enforcing the law and protecting all Americans from all forms of illegal race-based discrimination."