In the News: White House: Scrap Obama-Era School Discipline Guidance

On Tuesday, the White House released a report on school safety that recommends, among other things, that the Department of Education get rid of guidance issued by the Obama administration relating to school discipline. The report of the Federal Commission on School Safety, created by President Trump and led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, also called for schools and states to consider a long list of other actions aimed at making schools more safe.

Many have been expecting the Trump administration to scrap Obama-era guidance on school discipline, which had been aimed at reducing the number of suspensions and expulsions, especially for students of color.

That guidance, which came in a Dear Colleague letter, warned schools that they might be breaking the law if they adopt a discipline policy which “is neutral on its face—meaning that the policy itself does not mention race—and is administered in an evenhanded manner but has a disparate impact, i.e., a disproportionate and unjustified effect on students of a particular race.”

Earlier this year, Education Next published a forum on whether the Trump administration should retain, revise, or rescind the guidance developed by the Obama administration on school discipline.

In that debate, Dan Losen of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA argued that the guidance should remain in place in order to eliminate harm from unjustified discipline, and Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute made the case that the the guidance is based on an inaccurate understanding of discipline data and amounts to an overreach of federal power.

In an earlier article for Education Next, “Civil Rights Enforcement Gone Haywire,” Richard A. Epstein analyzed the legal reasoning behind the Obama-era guidance on school discipline.

— Education Next

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