Scott Calls on Secretary DeVos to Reinstate Obama-Era School Discipline Guidance, Address Systemic Racism in Education

September 23, 2020
Press Release
“Racist policies and practices are ingrained in our institutions both in name and in effect… and the Department must lead our educational system’s reckoning with this fact.”

As originally released by the Committee on Education & Labor

WASHINGTON, DC – In a letter to Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) called on the Department to reinstate critical Obama-era school discipline guidance, which was established in response to the disproportionate impact of school discipline practices on students of color and students with disabilities.  

In the letter, Chairman Scott notes that the Department’s decision to rescind the discipline guidance failed to rely on facts or data. Following the tragic school shootings in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas in 2018, the Trump administration established a federal school safety commission. In December 2018, without evidence, the commission recommended rescinding the Obama-era guidance on the grounds that curbing disproportionate suspensions of students of color has made schools less safe. 

However, a June 2020 GAO report refuted this claim and found no link between mass shootings and school discipline policies that reduce punitive practices like suspensions. 

“Racist policies and practices are ingrained in our institutions both in name and in effect, including in preschools, elementary schools, high schools, and colleges, and the Department must lead our educational system’s reckoning with this fact,” Chairman Scott wrote. “Without action, America will needlessly expose another generation of students of color to unfair treatment in the classroom, the effects of which may last their whole lives. It is time to honestly and comprehensively reckon with systemic racism in the education system.” 

Chairman Scott also notes that the Department’s push towards increasing law enforcement in schools, while simultaneously rescinding guidance that helped curb discriminatory discipline practices, is another example of the Department’s failure to acknowledge or address the inequity students of color experience every day.

“We urge the Department to reinstate the 2014 guidance and the ability of Department staff and the public to examine discipline disparities across every grade.”

To read the full letter, click here. 

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