Office for Civil Rights Calls for Comments on Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline
Office for Civil Rights Calls for Comments on Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline
 
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June 2021

On June 4, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Request for Information asking members of the public to submit written comments on the administration of school discipline in schools serving students in pre-K through 12th grade.

The department noted that the information collected will assist OCR in determining what policy guidance, technical assistance, and other resources may help schools improve school climate and safety, and ensure equal access to education programs and activities, consistent with federal civil rights laws. In fall 2018, the Trump administration repealed 2014 federal guidance that called on schools to address race-based disparities in school discipline, an action strongly opposed by AERA.

“Our nation’s civil rights laws require fair and nondiscriminatory school discipline practices, yet we have data that show concerning disparities based on race, sex, and disability in the administration of discipline,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne B. Goldberg. “We want to hear from educators, students, parents, and other stakeholders about how the department can support schools in addressing disparities and fostering positive and inclusive school climates.”

Russ Skiba, professor emeritus at Indiana University and an expert on the overuse of exclusionary discipline, told Highlights: “It is critical that researchers respond to this RFI and urge the U.S. Department of Education to reject ideological but unproven school safety and discipline practices, and resume a position of federal leadership promoting research-based practices that support healthy school climates and the elimination of racial/ethnic discrimination in the application of school discipline.”

Skiba noted that over 200 organizations and individuals signed on to recommendations from the Federal Discipline and School Climate Coalition to the Biden Transition Team regarding OCR guidance, data collection and enforcement:

  • Immediately rescind the Trump administration’s rescission of the 2014 Dear Colleague Letter and Guiding Principles.
  • Form a stakeholder-driven task force to complete updating and revision of those documents and set a timeline for their completion and re-release. In particular:
    • Revise position on school policing to reflect more current research indicating the severe harms to Black and Brown students associated with school police presence.
    • Affirm the value of race-conscious, rather than color-blind or race-neutral, approaches to reducing disciplinary disproportionality.
  • Re-assert the principle of disparate impact for OCR investigations.
  • Reinstate the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) that was scheduled to collect data from 2019-2020.
  • Collect CRDC data on an annual basis and report it to the public within 180 days of collection.

Comments can be submitted at https://www.regulations.gov/commenton/ED-2021-OCR-0068-0001. The deadline is July 23, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. AERA encourages education researchers who have submitted comments to also share them with the association via email to govrelations@aera.net.

 
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