For Immediate Release
Contact: David Card
Washington, DC – In January 2014, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice jointly published a letter to schools explaining the right of school children to be free from racial discrimination in school discipline. This guidance letter is designed to help schools understand their legal obligations and ensure discipline practices are fair for all children under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has now decided to rescind this guidance, which was developed as the result of a long and thoughtful process, and has been in use by school districts for over four years. The rescission removes valuable information for school districts to use to ensure they are following the law, but it does not change the law at all. It is still against the law to discriminate against children in school discipline based on race or ethnicity.
Contrary to the misguided statements of opponents, the guidance letter does not instruct school districts to ignore school safety issues, prevent referral to law enforcement or removal from school for any dangerous students, or set quotas.
This rescission is relevant to students with disabilities for at least two reasons: 1) students of color are also students with disabilities, and students of color and those with disabilities face disproportionate levels of school removal (suspension, expulsion and informal removal); 2) This represents another attempt by the Administration to curtail students’ right to a fair and equitable education. A harm to one is a harm to all.
Hardening of schools and removal of student’s rights is not necessary to improve safety and does not actually result in safer schools. In fact, it creates a false sense of security. Faithful implementation of a range of evidence-based practices and policies such as those suggested in the guidance, has supported student learning in a safe and productive school environment.
We are fortunate to have good models to look toward to prevent the harm caused by unnecessary school removals, models that do not prevent school districts from removing truly violent students or reporting them to law enforcement. Through the use of these models, students who engage in youthful misbehavior stay in school, but their behavior is effectively addressed.
Decisions about matters as important as the right to an education and a successful future deserve thoughtful consideration, based on verifiable evidence, not a kneejerk rescission of important evidence based guidance that has been proven to make schools safer.
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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.