POLICY & ADVOCACY

December 18th, 2018

Federal School Safety Commission Recommends Throwing Out Discipline Guidance

Since 2014, schools have been relying upon guidance jointly issued by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice to help fight bias in school discipline practices. The guidance acknowledged a simple fact: students of color and students with disabilities are disciplined at higher rates and with harsher practices than their white counterparts. It provided educators with actionable tools and strategies to address bias, improve discipline practices, uphold students’ civil rights protections, and foster a more equitable and welcoming school environment for all students.

Ignoring its value, the Federal School Safety Commission announced today that it is recommending the rescission of this critical guidance that has long served as a resource to help schools address one of our most pervasive problems:  students with disabilities — especially students with disabilities of color — face disparate treatment in our nation’s public schools. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 1 in 4 black males with IEPs receive out-of-school suspensions compared to 1 in 10 white males with IEPs.
  • Students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be suspended as students without disabilities.
  • More than one quarter of African-American boys with disabilities received one or more out of school suspensions, compared to 1 in 10 white boys with disabilities.
  • Students with disabilities (who account for only 12% of the student population) account for 25% of arrests at school.

There is no reason that this should be the reality of students of color or students with disabilities. Behavior does not explain the disparate rates of discipline they face. Bias does.

And yet, the Federal School Safety Commission has concluded that there is no need to support schools in addressing this inequity. Despite hearing from dozens of advocacy organizations, including NCLD, about the importance of this guidance and further protection of students at its Federal School Safety Commission Hearing, the guidance may be rescinded. To be clear: there is no link or correlation between the discipline guidance and continued violent acts in our schools.  

While today’s action signals a shift away from providing students a quality education and a fair chance in our nation’s public schools, NCLD is taking a step further. NCLD pledges to continue working with the teachers who want to educate all students equitably, no matter the color of their skin or their disability status. NCLD will continue to work with advocates and communities who believe that all children have a right to be treated fairly in schools.

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