AERA Statement on School Safety Commission’s Recommendation to Repeal Federal Guidance on Reducing Racial Discipline Gaps
AERA Statement on School Safety Commission’s Recommendation to Repeal Federal Guidance on Reducing Racial Discipline Gaps

For Immediate Release
December 18, 2018

Tony Pals,
(202) 238-3235, (202) 288-9333 (cell)

Collin Boylin,
(202) 238-3233, (860) 490-8326 (cell)

Statement by AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine on the School Safety Commission’s Recommendation to Repeal Federal Guidance on Reducing Racial Discipline Gaps

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 18, 2018 - The Federal Commission on School Safety’s recommendation to repeal 2014 federal guidance calling on schools to address race-based disparities in school discipline should deeply concern parents, educators, policymakers, and the public. Repeal will do little to reduce school violence while magnifying inequities. The recommendation ignores the overwhelming body of scientific evidence that racial minorities are disciplined more frequently and more harshly than is warranted by their behavior in schools. Unnecessary suspensions and expulsions, rooted in misunderstanding and implicit and explicit bias, have damaging lifelong consequences for students, communities, and the entire country.

Education researchers have long studied disparities in school discipline, the factors behind them, and their implications for students and schools. AERA’s journals regularly publish research on the topic and in April 2017 the association held a major public lecture that addressed school discipline disparities. The science is clear that racial discipline gaps exist, cannot be explained by differences in student behavior alone, and are roadblocks to educational opportunity and equity.

This body of research evidence is also supported by a report released by the Government Accountability Office in March 2018 that found that “black students, boys, and students with disabilities were disproportionately disciplined (e.g., suspensions and expulsions) in K-12 public schools,” based on its analysis of Education Department national civil rights data for the 2013-14 school year.

The GAO report also noted: “Research has shown that students who experience discipline that removes them from the classroom are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, and become involved in the juvenile justice system. Studies have shown this can result in decreased earning potential and added costs to society, such as incarceration and lost tax revenue.”

AERA and education researchers are deeply committed to making school safety a priority and will continue to study the root causes of school violence and ways to foster positive school climate, work with school leaders to develop and assess interventions, provide resources on school safety for educators and policymakers, and speak out when the nation’s schools are targets of acts of violence.

The nation’s schools need to foster safe, supportive environments for all students, using practices and procedures that rely on evidence and data. The commission’s recommendation, which ignores the body of scientific evidence, is deeply disappointing and represents a step backward.

About AERA

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning. Founded in 1916, AERA advances knowledge about education, encourages scholarly inquiry related to education, and promotes the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. Find AERA on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.