Holder’s New School Discipline Guidelines: Stop Targeting Minorities

Jan 9, 2014 by

The Obama administration is urging schools to abandon overly zealous discipline policies that civil rights advocates have long said lead to a school-to-prison pipeline that discriminates against minority students.

The wide-ranging series of guidelines issued Wednesday in essence tells schools that they must adhere to the principle of fairness and equity in student discipline or face strong action if they don’t. The American Civil Liberties Union called the recommendations “ground-breaking.”

“A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Holder said the problem often stems from well intentioned “zero-tolerance” policies that too often inject the criminal justice system into the resolution of problems. Zero tolerance policies, a tool that became popular in the 1990s, often spell out uniform and swift punishment for offenses such as truancy, smoking or carrying a weapon. Violators can lose classroom time or become saddled with a criminal record.

Police have become a more common presence in American schools since the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999.

In American schools, black students without disabilities were more than three times as likely as whites to be expelled or suspended, according to government civil rights data collection from 2011-2012. Although black students made up 15 percent of students in the data collection, they made up more than a third of students suspended once, 44 percent of those suspended more than once and more than a third of students expelled.

More than half of students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Hispanic or black, according to the data.

The recommendations encourage schools to ensure that all school personnel are trained in classroom management, conflict resolution and approaches to de-escalate classroom disruptions.

Among the other recommendations:

_Ensure that school personnel understand that they are responsible for administering routine student discipline instead of security or police officers.

_Draw clear distinctions about the responsibilities of school security personnel.

_Provide opportunities for school security officers to develop relationships with students and parents.

The government advises schools to establish procedures on how to distinguish between disciplinary infractions appropriately handled by school officials compared with major threats to school safety. And, it encourages schools to collect and monitor data that security or police officers take to ensure nondiscrimination.

The recommendations are nonbinding.

Already, in March of last year, the Justice Department spearheaded a settlement with the Meridian, Miss., school district to end discriminatory disciplinary practices. The black students in the district were facing harsher punishment than whites for similar misbehavior.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has acknowledged the challenge is finding the balancing act to keep school safe and orderly. But, he said that, “we need to keep students in class where they can learn.”

Research suggests the racial disparities in how students are disciplined are not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color, according to a letter sent to schools with the recommendations by the departments.

“For example, in our investigations, we have found cases where African-American students were disciplined more harshly and more frequently because of their race than similarly situated white students,” the letter said. “In short, racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem.”

via Holder’s New School Discipline Guidelines: Stop Targeting Minorities.

Education News
Google
by Education News
Find us on Google+

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Teacher with a brain

    As a teacher, I would like to share my concern about statements such as these. Routine discipline issues, such as: inappropriate remarks, talking back, refusal to comply, etc. do not result in disciplinary actions that involve the discipline office. Teachers handle these kinds of infractions in their own ways in their own classrooms. However students who engage in these low-level disruptive behaviors on a regular basis, read that as almost daily and often across multiple classrooms, do you become clients of the discipline office and this is the way it should be. A couple of tiers of interventions have already not been successful over a period of time. Contrary to the views of some, generally people who do not work in schools, these are not students who are occasionally making poor choices, rather they are students who are making poor choices regularly and often in and apparently deliberate way. Further intervention is necessary and this always involves the discipline office.

Leave a Reply to Teacher with a brain Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.