New Federal Data Examines Discipline and Desegregation
This Newsbrief gives our sense of important and timely federal educational news within this process and protest context.
Process and Protest:
To advance educational excellence and equity, we must prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable students and communities. To accomplish this goal, we need clear processes for the development of policy, and we need to take into account opposition to current and proposed policies and practices — protest—as a healthy part of those processes.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the United States Department of Education (US ED) has released information from the Civil Rights Data Collection. This data, which is collected and released every two years by US ED, covers the vast majority of schools and districts in the United States. The current release of data covers the 2015-16 school year.
Rise in Reported Desegregation Orders
The current data shows a dramatic increase in the number of districts reporting that they are under desegregation orders. The reasons behind this are not fully understood, and the big rise comes after a precipitous 86-percent drop between the previous two iterations of the CRDC, which covered the 2011-12 and the 2013-14 school years. US ED changed the definition of “desegregation order” between the 2011-12 data collection and the 2013-14 data collection, but the relationship of this change to the increase is not currently known.
School Discipline and Climate
To accompany the release of the latest CRDC data, US ED released a policy brief on what it calls “School Climate and Safety.” Among its findings, the brief shows that Black and African American students and students with disabilities are subjected to school-related arrests and/or are referred to law enforcement at rates far exceeding their representation in overall school enrollment. The brief also shows that Black and African American students are bullied at a much higher rate than their peers.
What is the Civil Rights Data Collection?
The regular reporting of student data is one of the responsibilities that school districts and schools must fulfill in exchange for federal financial assistance. The data in the CRDC has been collected by the federal government since 1968, and is self-reported by 17,300 public school districts and 96,400 public schools and educational programs. While some of the specific data requested by the federal government may change slightly for each iteration of the CRDC, the vast bulk of the requested data generally remains the same. Information collected for the CRDC overlaps somewhat with data that is being regularly collected as a part of separate efforts and data systems in schools, districts, and states. The information from the CRDC is used by OCR as background and context for investigations into complaints of discrimination, and is also used by other offices in US ED, other federal agencies, lawmakers, and various members of the public who are interested in understanding more about the state of educational equity in the nation’s schools.
Federal courts issue desegregation orders when they find that districts or states are maintaining separate educational facilities and systems for students of different races. The successful lawsuits that result in these orders to integrate schools are sometimes brought or joined by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). Because the DOJ is not a party to all desegregation lawsuits, the list of lawsuits it maintains on its website, while useful, is not an exhaustive account of these cases in the United States.
President Trump has designated US ED Secretary Betsy DeVos as the leader of a federal commission on school safety that is charged, in part, with examining the repeal of the Obama administration’s “Rethink School Discipline” policies. The “Rethink School Discipline” efforts were intended to clarify the responsibility of states, districts, and schools to not discriminate unlawfully in the administration of school discipline. The commission met for the first time on March 28, 2018 in a session that was closed to press and to the public. The entire membership of the commission is comprised of current members of the President’s cabinet: Secretary DeVos, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The commission has no members that represent parents, teachers, schools, states, or civil rights groups. The commission does not have a website, and no details are available regarding the commission’s next meeting.
- There Are Wild Swings in School Desegregation Data. The Feds Can’t Explain Why (Education Week| May 2)
- Black Girls are Disciplined More Harshly in School. Dress Codes Play a Big Role (Vox| April 26)
- U.S. Department of Education Releases 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection (The United States Department of Education| April 24)
- Federal Civil Rights Data Highlight Racial Disparities in Discipline as DeVos Mulls Guidance Rollback (The 74 Million| April 24)
- Better Use of Information Could Help Agencies Identify Disparities and Address Racial Discrimination (United States Government Accountability Office|April 2016)
- Partners for Each and Every Child blogs:
Be a Part of the Process
- Get Informed: Examine the data for your district and school and learn more about the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).
- Take Action: Make your opinions about school discipline known by contacting US ED at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-2311 to speak with your members of Congress about US ED’s approach to school discipline and how it should handle school discipline reform and the Obama administration’s “Rethink School Discipline” policies.
- Take Local Action: Contact members of your state’s legislature regarding how they plan to address the educational disparities revealed by the CRDC data. Contact your state educational agency (SEA) and local school board about the details of the CRDC data pertaining to your school and/or school district.
Partner and Friend Updates:
- From April 26-30, the United Negro College Fund held Education Summit 2018: Bridging K-12 & Higher Education and released A Seat at the Table: African-American Youth’s Perceptions of K-12 Education. The summit focused on how to improve outcomes for African American students and how to shift the narrative of what is possible for all students.
A Seat at the Table is the third report in UNCF’s three-part series on African American perceptions of K-12 education. The inaugural report in the series was Done to Us, Not With Us: African American Parents Perceptions of K-12 Education; the second report in the series was entitled Lift Every Voice and Lead: African American Leaders’ Perceptions on K-12 Education Reform.
- The National Urban League (NUL) has released the 2018 edition of its semiannual report entitled The State of Black America. This edition of the report includes indices for Black-White equality; Hispanic-White equality; and Digital Inclusion. The report also features article excerpts from NUL contributors and partners on issues including employment, education, health, housing, and justice.
Be a Part of the Process
Stay up to date on the U.S. Department of Education decisions at ED.gov, where you can read updates from Secretary DeVos and subscribe to the US ED newsletter.
You can also advocate for all students by learning more about your state education policy – right now, states across the country are releasing drafts of their plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These plans have open public comment periods and your input is critically important.