Response to Anticipated Rollback of Federal Discipline Policies
Lawyers for Civil Rights Responds to Trump Administration’s Anticipated Rollback of Discipline Policies
The U.S. Department of Education is expected to rescind policies created to ensure that schoolchildren of color do not receive disproportionate discipline. Following the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the Trump Administration convened a school safety commission, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The commission recently concluded that 2014 guidance issued by the Obama Administration, in response to considerable evidence that students of color were being disciplined at far higher rates than white students, has made schools more dangerous.
There is no evidence to suggest that the 2014 non-binding guidance – which encouraged schools to administer discipline fairly and examine data for racial disparities – is responsible for the horrific mass shootings in schools. This is a blatant attempt to stoke fear and block children of color from receiving equal access to education.
Across the country, Black students and students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined from kindergarten through twelfth grade. For example, even if a Black student engaged in the same behavior as a white student, he or she will be punished more harshly through suspension or referral to law enforcement. Unsurprisingly, students of color with disabilities are most at risk for disproportionate punishment—Black students with disabilities are almost three times as likely to be suspended or expelled than white students without disabilities.
The impact of this disproportionate punishment cannot be understated. In overly penalizing minor infractions, students lose their connection to their educational community; they are more likely to fall behind in coursework, become disengaged, and drop out. The school-to-prison pipeline is even shorter when law enforcement is involved, as students are pushed out of the classroom into the criminal justice system for minor incidents that schools consider non-violent, non-criminal, and non-drug-related.
At Lawyers for Civil Rights, we have fought the disparate use of out-of-school punishments and school-based arrests on students of color and students with disabilities. Even if the 2014 guidance is withdrawn by the Trump Administration, we will continue advocating at the local, state, and federal level to protect the civil and educational rights of our most vulnerable students, including students of color, English-language learners, and students with disabilities.