As part of the Federal School Safety Commission, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Trump Administration have moved forward with measures to rescind or replace the 2014 school discipline guidance package. We, as part of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s (NYCLU) Teen Activist Project (TAP), believe this will compromise the equal treatment of all students, and allow schools to disproportionately criminalize students of color.

 

The 2014 discipline guidance package was released by the Departments of Education and Justice, with the purpose of curbing inequities in school discipline. It addressed injustices in the treatment and discipline of students of color, stating that schools must abide by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that schools must administer discipline without discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. It urged schools to review their disciplinary practices to ensure that they were being administered fairly and without discrimination. Additionally, the guidance package included materials to support the reduction of suspensions and expulsions. 

 

TAP believes these guidelines help create a positive educational environment and encourage schools to adopt restorative disciplinary practices. We believe 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. Finally, we in TAP believe 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, in TAP and at the NYCLU, believe the most important issue in education today is the equal treatment of all students. We are saddened to see that Secretary Betsy DeVos chose to rescind the 2014 discipline guidance package, which created guidelines to protect all students, regardless of race, color, or national origin. 

 

In the wake of the rescission of this guidance, we strongly request that the New York City Department of Education (DOE) adopt its own guidance on this issue. The DOE has the opportunity to strengthen protections for its students now that the federal guidance is no more. We hope that they will consider the experiences and perspectives of young people when responding to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

NYCLU’s Teen Activist Project

 

 

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