Significant Action Around School Safety and Discipline

The Issue:

Last weekend, thousands of people rallied across the country to advocate for gun control. This came on the heels of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which sparked a debate on school violence—but has also been linked by commentators and politicians to U.S. Department of Education guidance on school discipline.

In 2011, the Obama Administration issued a series of guidance documents relating to school discipline practices and explaining how the Office for Civil Rights 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.

Read the full blog on this issue here.

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.  

Learn More:


Be a Part of the Process:

  • Last week, President Trump announced that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would lead a school safety commission that is charged, in part, with examining the repeal of these Obama administration’s “Rethink School Discipline” policies. It appears that President Trump intends that the entire membership of the commission will be comprised of members of the President’s cabinet.
  • Get Informed: Read the White House’s Press Release on the Federal Commission on School Safety and learn more about how and when the Commission will be taking input from the public.
  • Take Action: 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 will handle the Obama administration’s “Rethink School Discipline” policies.