Rescission of Obama-era School Discipline Guidance is an Attack on Youth of Color
WASHINGTON – Today, the Federal Commission on School Safety recommended the rescission of Obama-era guidance on school discipline aimed at addressing racial disparities in discipline and curbing the discriminatory treatment of students of color and those with disabilities. The guidance comes as part of a new report by the Federal Commission on School Safety, chaired by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, recommending discredited policies that harden schools and criminalize Black and Brown youth. The Alliance for Educational Justice, a national alliance of youth of color working to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, and Advancement Project’s national office, a multi-racial civil rights organization released the following statement:
“By recommending the rescission of the Obama-era school discipline guidance, Betsy DeVos is sending a clear message to students of color and those with disabilities: the U.S. Department of Education will no longer be a resource for students and families experiencing discrimination.
“The recommendation to rescind Obama-era school discipline guidance reflects Betsy DeVos’ deep-seated and fundamentally flawed view that combatting discrimination against students of color and those with disabilities is a worthless pursuit. This view is rooted in the disgusting belief that certain students, including youth of color, belong to an underclass of students attending our nation’s public schools who are unworthy of supportive learning environments and our protection. In the eyes of those like DeVos, these students remain the super-predators of the 1980s who are a threat to our nation’s schools, who deserve police, metal detectors and additional surveillance, instead of guidance counselors and mental health professionals. This racist ‘War on Drugs’ approach to student discipline has made our schools no safer and ushered in zero-tolerance policies that criminalize youth of color and harden the school-to-prison pipeline, all while failing to address the root causes of school violence. Through the repeal of protections for sexual assault survivors, transgender and LGBTQ students – along with the curtailment of investigation into Title VI complaints – we know that Besty DeVos does not intend to make schools safe for all students. Her attempt to criminalize students in the name of school safety is reprehensible.
“We will not create the safe and supportive schools our children deserve until we invest in strategies that meet students’ needs and establish positive learning environment. Research and data demonstrate that exclusionary policies and student policing have failed to prevent school violence and create negative school climates. The recommendations put forth by the Federal Commission on School Safety fly in the face of decades of research showing the harm of hardening and militarizing schools. School policing has also summarily failed to prevent mass violence and has drained school districts of critical resources better spent on hiring high-quality teachers, social workers, school nurses and other supportive adults trained in youth development. We call on the U.S. Department of Education to preserve the school discipline guidance and support the disarming of all school personnel. Schools must continue to use promising strategies like restorative justice and divest from punitive and exclusionary discipline as well as school policing to create positive learning environments that honor the dignity of all students.”
Alliance for Educational Justice is comprised of membership organizations committed to the engagement of youth of color, LGBTQ youth, and their parents- key constituencies deeply impacted by racialized achievement gaps and bias-based disparities in school disciplinary policies.
Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras