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SACRAMENTO, Aug. 24, 2018 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a multistate coalition in blasting the U.S. Department of Education for plans to rescind critical school discipline guidance put in place to protect students of color, those with disabilities, boys and LGBTQ youth. The Attorneys General condemned Secretary Betsy DeVos’ latest attempt to take away protections that help prepare students for success in school and beyond. The school discipline guidance released in 2014 helps school districts develop practices and policies that comply with federal civil-rights laws relating to disciplinary measures. The guidance provides resources for creating safe and positive environments, which are critical for ensuring strong academic performance and closing achievement gaps. In their letter to Secretary DeVos, the 11-state coalition described the dangers involved in returning to the days when suspensions and expulsions, known collectively as “ex clusionary discipline,” were the primary form of addressing school discipline issues.

“Student safety is enhanced when classroom environments are welcoming and when responses to behavioral issues are fair, non-discriminatory and effective. Betsy DeVos’ latest plans to take away guidance that was put in place to help students succeed is irresponsible and reckless,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Instead of routinely suspending and expelling students for misbehaving, we should look at the root cause of the issues and offer alternative forms of discipline that actually work. We know that suspensions and expulsions disproportionately impact students of color, boys, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ youth. It is critical that schools implement policies and practices that comply with civil-rights laws and yield positive outcomes for students, their classmates, and our communities.”

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In April, the U.S. Department of Education released data that showed that even while the overall number of suspensions declined nationally, racial disparities persisted as schools still disproportionally subjected African-American students to suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement. For example, African-American students were overrepresented in suspensions by about 23 percentage points. Suspensions are related to higher rates of future anti-social behaviors and involvement in the juvenile justice system, and they even harm the academic performance of students who are not suspended. Reports indicate that given the wide discretion that school officials have when imposing discipline, their implicit bias may contribute to the school discipline gaps by causing them to judge students’ behavior differently based on the students’ race and sex.” Therefore, students of color and with disabilities are disproportionately impacted each year when they miss class due to suspensions and expulsions—even for minor infractions of school rules.

Joining Attorney General Becerra in sending the letter are the Attorneys General of Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington.

A copy of the letter can be found here.