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December 18, 2018

NEW YORK ‒ Today, the U.S. Department of Education recommended the rescission of Obama-era school discipline guidance that intended to curb inequities in school discipline and address injustices in the treatment of students of color by public school officials and urges schools to partner with local law enforcement to train and arm school staff.

The proposal comes from the administration's Federal School Safety Commission that was formed after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, to provide actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school.

Public data on police-involved incidents in New York public schools show that in three months, between April 1-June 30 of this year, the New York City Police Department made a staggering 336 arrests and 1,089 summonses in schools.

"It is shameful that Betsy DeVos invokes the murders of school children in mass shootings as a pretext to gut measures that would create truly safe and supportive environments in schools for all children and shed light on harmful racial disparities in school discipline," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. "The proposal to arm teachers is yet another example of the Trump administration’s disdain for the nation’s public school students and their refusal to consider meaningful approaches to school safety. Safe and supportive schools require more counselors, restorative justice programs, and common-sense gun reforms."

 “Decades of research and data from the U.S. Department of Education confirm that safe and supportive learning environments cannot be built on the foundations of zero-tolerance discipline policies, school policing, and student surveillance,” the New York Safe and Supportive Schools Coalition, a statewide coalition of students, families, teachers and advocates, said in a statement.

“These failed policies have historically led to the overreliance on punitive and exclusionary discipline, the criminalization of Black and Brown students, and the discriminatory treatment of students with disabilities. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ attempt to turn back the clock on civil rights sends a chilling message to New York students and the schools that serve them. This message says that the U.S. Department of Education is more concerned with creating the illusion of safety than advancing initiatives that address the root cause of student behavior and actually keep students safe.”

Students from the NYCLU's Teen Activist Program (TAP) released a letter in response to the decision:

"TAP believes these guidelines helped create a positive educational environment and encourage schools to adopt restorative disciplinary practices. The rescission or replacement of these guidelines will cause a rise in harsh disciplinary measures, and lead to further increases in the incarceration of students of color. We believe it will increase the use of suspensions and expulsions in schools, which has been shown to create an unwelcoming and unsafe environment for students.  The abandonment of these guidelines will only serve to increase the segregation of schools and increase the disparity in the quality of education students receive.

“We strongly urge the New York City Department of Education (DOE) adopt guidelines regarding this issue. The DOE has the opportunity to strengthen protections for its students now that the federal guidance has reversed. We hope that they will consider the experiences and perspectives of young people when responding to this matter.”

The full TAP letter is here.

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