FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 1, 2019
Contact: Elana Needle, Eneedle@unidosus.org, 201-248-9724
Nine leading national civil rights and racial justice organizations, collectively known as the Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative, demand that the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) immediately investigate the continuing pattern of discriminatory school disciplinary practices across the nation. We also call for the declaration of a national emergency on behalf of students of color and those with disabilities to improve school climate and safety based on the recent publication of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) report Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities. The recent rescission of the federal School Discipline Guidance by the Trump Department of Education was wrong, as the USCCR report powerfully underscores, and it undermines civil rights protections for students of color.
The USSCR report found significant discipline disparities based on race nationwide and for children of color with disabilities. The report cites evidence that Black and Native American children are over-identified for special education, and that these students are disciplined at higher rates than their white peers. The Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative understands that these disparities are due to both racial bias on the part of school staff and school police, as well as discriminatory school discipline and policing practices that criminalize Black, Latino and Native American students for age-appropriate school behavior.
The report’s findings shine a light on major disparities such as Black, Latino, and Native American youth being deemed problematic and having more behavioral issues than white students. The report found these claims to be false. Sadly, this information is not new to the Racial Equity Anchor Group. Moreover, when comparing broad group data, there does not initially appear to be similar levels of disproportionate disparities related to school discipline among Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) students. It is important to remember, however, that specific AANHPI ethnic subgroups may experience disparities, but these disparities are not readily apparent without further data analysis at a more granular level.
Our country’s educational policies have a pervasive, negative impact on educational outcomes for students of color.
Decades of research on school climate have consistently shown that safe schools are well-resourced and invest in the support students need to thrive in and beyond the classroom. Support like school guidance counselors, psychiatrists, and high-quality teachers helps to create positive school climates and helps address the root cause of violence, according to findings from Advancement Project’s National Office.
The rescission by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of the 2014 ED-DOJ School Discipline Guidance will undermine access to a quality education for students of color and those with disabilities. The guidance was issued to help schools address the troubling and undeniable evidence that students of color, boys, and students with disabilities receive harsher punishments than their classmates for similar or lesser offenses. Rescinding the guidance will stall, if not reverse, our progress toward addressing these disparities. Even worse, by improperly using the School Safety Commission report to justify this decision, the Department is sending a terrible message that schools are safest when they discriminate against students of color.
Our organizations work to dismantle racial disparities in many ways, including in schools, and we demand that these issues be thoroughly addressed now, moving forward, and until educational justice and equity prevail.