On January 8, there was a major sign of progress in the struggle to end the School-to-Prison Pipeline. A joint initiative of the federal Departments of Justice and Education (DOJ and DOE) released a long-awaited guidance package on school discipline. According to a joint statement the guidance “will assist states, districts and schools in developing practices and strategies to enhance school climate, and ensure those policies and practices comply with federal law.”
As part of the guidance package, the DOE released new Civil Rights Data Collection information from the 2011-2012 school year, revealing that:
- Although African American students represented 15% of students in the CRDC, they make up 35% of students suspended once, 44% of those suspended more than once, and 36% of students expelled.
- Over 50% of students who were involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are Hispanic or African-American.
- African American students without disabilities are more than 3 times likely as their white peers without disabilities to be expelled or suspended.
These points illustrate the incredible harm being done to youth of color by the current system of school discipline. In order to work toward dismantling the Pipeline the DOJ and DOE included examples of disciplinary actions that will trigger heightened scrutiny when they result in racial disparities (including zero tolerance policies, corporal punishment, and exclusionary discipline for truancy), potential remedies (such as teacher trainings, school resource officer review, and school-based student supports), and best practice recommendations for school districts, administrators, teachers, and staff(including cultural awareness training, memorandum of agreement between districts and police, and strengthened community engagement).
The release of this guidance package is a major step forward in dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline. It is the federal government’s strongest acknowledgement yet of the pervasiveness and impact of racial disparities in the administration of school discipline. Of course, this is a result of years of work by students, parents and other advocates who have demanded that policy makers address the problem.
Click here to download the guidance package.
If you’re interested in learning more about the guidance package and what it means for your community, join a webinar hosted by Advancement Project, NAACP LDF, Dignity in Schools, and Alliance for Education Justice on January 16!