The Law Center has joined with more than 150 other education and civil rights organizations to send a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, urging her to retain the U.S. Department of Education’s 2014 guidance on nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline.
The letter was sent on March 22nd and written by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. As explained in the letter, the 2014 guidance “clarifies that the Department of Education expects that schools and districts are treating all children fairly and provides practical tools and guidelines for educators to create safe, supportive, and welcoming environments for all students.”
Rescinding the guidance would send the opposite message: that the Department does not care that schools are discriminating against children of color by disproportionately kicking them out of school and that the Department does not see itself as having a role in helping educators create and maintain safe schools that afford all students equal educational opportunities.
The 2014 guidance is particularly important for students who face disciplinary action that excludes them from school, like suspensions or expulsions. Research has shown that students of color, LGBT students, and students with disabilities are disproportionately likely to receive such punishments when compared with their peers. These suspensions add up to millions of days of lost instructional time.
All children are harmed when schools overuse punitive exclusionary discipline.[xv] As the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “out-of-school suspension and expulsion represent an enormously costly and largely unsatisfactory solution to behavior problems in school, whether from the standpoint of the school district, the student, or the community.”[xvi] These harms to children come with no benefit to school safety or student learning.[xvii]
The Department of Education is legally obligated to protect students from discrimination in school, and documents like these help ensure that this responsibility is consistently and completely carried out. The Law Center joins organizations across the country in urging the Department of Education to retain this crucial guidance for school discipline.
Under Secretary DeVos, the Department of Education has already rescinded several important pieces of guidance for school districts. These include documents that clarified the rights of students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and guidance for transgender students‘ access to school restrooms and locker rooms.
Click here to read the full text of the letter and see a list of all signing organizations.