School Discipline Changes: Rescission of Guidance?

The Issue:

In 2011, the Obama Administration issued a series of guidance documents relating to school discipline practices and explaining how the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the United States Department of Education (US ED) would be analyzing data and conducting investigations into discipline practices by schools and districts. Supporters of the guidance welcome US ED taking a closer look at the potentially discriminatory impact of school discipline policies on students of color, students with disabilities, and/or low-income students. Critics of the guidance believe it puts the safety of teachers and administrators at risk by making it more difficult to suspend dangerous students, and that it creates an incentive for schools to develop a “racial quota” approach to student discipline. Advocates on both sides believe that US ED Secretary Betsy DeVos is interested in rescinding this guidance in the near future. It is unclear what, if anything, would replace the current guidance.

The Process:

In September 2017, US ED revoked guidance issued by the Obama Administration concerning how schools should handle allegations of sexual assault on campus. US ED did not immediately replace the guidance, but circulated an interim Q&A document to guide schools during the development of an as-yet-unreleased new guidance. US ED’s rescission of the guidance came after Secretary DeVos convened several public meetings to obtain input on the guidance. Secretary DeVos recently convened a public meeting to hear from teachers and administrators who felt the school discipline guidance puts them at risk. It is within her powers to revoke the guidance at any time.  

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