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Trump Administration Relies on Shaky Data when Making Decisions on School Discipline Reform

For Immediate Release                
December 8, 2017

Contact: David Card
202.408.9514 x122
press@ndrn.org

WASHINGTON – At a briefing today at the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), speakers said the Trump Administration plans to dramatically alter 2014 discipline guidance meant to protect students of color with disabilities from discrimination. In support of rescinding this Obama era guidance, the speakers used dubious statistics and other non-peer reviewed research to argue that discrimination has not been proven.

“Facts are facts,” said NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker. “And while some people in the current government choose to ignore the evidence that school suspensions and expulsions unfairly target particular groups, we will not. Especially when what we are talking about is the future of students with disabilities.”

The briefing, called The School-to-Prison Pipeline: The Intersections of Students of Color with Disabilities, was organized to review how school districts’ comply with federal laws designed to protect students of color with disabilities from discriminatory disciplinary actions and policies.

As was explained in a recent report, one of many on this topic, reducing suspension and expulsion does not result in chaos and injury.  Permitting its use for minor infractions results in hours of lost instruction for students from particular groups and results in inequality.  See for example: Lost Instruction: The Disparate Impact of the School Discipline Gap in California, Center for Civil Rights Remedies, Center for Civil Rights Remedies, Authors: Daniel J. Losen and Amir Whitaker, October 24, 2017)

“…Most notable is that the survey results on students’ sense of safety for the most recent year available, 2016-17, (figure 7) show that safety ratings for middle and high school students are at the highest level in five years, higher than before the new suspension policy was implemented and more than making up the initial decline. Specifically, following the initial dip, LAUSD students’ reported sense of safety grew to 88% for the middle school and 84% for the high school—the highest it has been for students in those groups in the last 5 years. This evidence runs counter to the frequent argument that a policy change intended to lower the use of suspension will cause the learning environment to become chaotic and unsafe.

Equally important, out of the nearly 50,000 LAUSD school staff members surveyed in 2016-17, more than 80% at all grade levels feel that school discipline problems were handled fairly, and more than 75% felt that discipline was handled effectively. ... [S]taff at all levels report that student behavior is less problematic since the abolition of suspension for disruption/defiance. … Moreover, the assumption that kicking out the “disruptive” students is likely beneficial is based on a false dichotomy that students are either disruptive or non-disruptive, and that this is some immutable characteristic or deficit within the student. “
In fact, children with disabilities are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. They are restrained and secluded, bullied, harassed and arrested by school resource officers at higher rates than other students.  See: U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, CIVIL RIGHTS DATA COLLECTION Data Snapshot: School Discipline Issue Brief No. 1 (March 2014).

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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.

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