U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been thinking of tossing or tweaking Obama-era guidance that seeks to address serious discipline disparities between racial minorities and their white peers. And on Wednesday, she held a summit in Washington to hear from both fans and critics of the guidance.
That 2014 civil rights guidance—jointly issued by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice—put schools on notice that they may be found in violation of federal civil rights laws if they enforce intentionally discriminatory rules, or if their policies lead to disproportionately higher rates of discipline for students in one racial group, even if those policies were written without discriminatory intent.
The guidance has divided the education community. Opponents, including educators, say the document has had a chilling effect on local decisionmaking in school discipline. But supporters, including educators as well as civil rights advocates, say the guidance has been instrumental in protecting the civil rights of students who are often overlooked. And it has motivated states and districts to re-examine their disciplinary practices, making changes that have benefited all kids.
Evie Blad and I have a full explanation of the issue, and comments from both sides of the debate, in a post over at Rules for Engagement. When you’re done reading that, please check out this commentary piece from former Obama officials on just why they wrote the guidance in the first place.
Photo: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks at a news conference on March 7, in Coral Springs, Fla., following a visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Lynne Sladky/AP)