This Newsbrief gives our sense of important and timely federal educational news within the following process and 
protest context
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.  

Federal Update

The Federal School Safety Commission and School Discipline

December 21, 2018

The Issue

Earlier this week, the Federal Commission on School Safety released its final report. The Safety Commission was created by the Trump administration in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

President Trump designated United States Department of Education (US ED) Secretary Betsy DeVos as the leader of the Safety Commission and charged the commission with “quickly providing meaningful and actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school,” and examining the repeal of the Obama Administration’s “Rethinking Discipline” policies.

The “Rethinking Discipline” set of policies were developed by US ED and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to improve school climates and school discipline practices and reduce unnecessary out of school suspensions and expulsions. As was widely expected, among the Commission’s recommendations was the rescission of the “Rethinking Discipline” guidance.


The Process

The Federal Commission on School Safety 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 was comprised of members of the President’s cabinet: Secretary DeVos, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who filled the position of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The commission had no members that represented parents, teachers, schools, states, or civil rights groups.

The Safety Commission’s website indicates that it held 14 meetings, though not all were open to the public. The commission held its final public listening session on August 28, 2018. Among the topics considered by the commission were:

  • Meeting with experts and survivors of mass shootings

  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

  • The ecology of schools: fostering a culture of human flourishing and developing character

  • Curating a healthier & safer approach: issues of mental health and counseling for our young

  • Transforming school climate and culture to meet the behavioral needs of students

  • Proactively protecting our schools

  • Creating a “Citadel of Learning”: new tools to secure our schools, inside and out

  • Best practices for school building safety

Practically speaking, the Commission’s recommendations are suggestions and do not by themselves change federal policy. To rescind the Rethinking Discipline guidance, US ED will need to affirmatively do so.

Because “Rethinking Discipline” is guidance, not a regulation or a law, US ED may rescind the guidance unilaterally, and at any time.

Be a Part of the Process