December 7, 2017

Organizations call on US DOE to keep discipline guidance

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice issued guidance to assist public schools with administering student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Now, the Department of Education is tapping two opponents of the Obama-era guidance for key posts, and department officials met recently with staunch critics of the 2014 guidance. We face the real possibility that Secretary Betsy DeVos will rescind the guidance. This would be a major setback for teachers who are committed to ending racial and gender discipline disparities in our schools through evidence-based strategies aimed at addressing the root causes of student misbehavior. 

To this end, organizations nationwide united to send the following letter to Secretary DeVos, urging her to keep the school discipline guidance. 

The Honorable Betsy DeVos
Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave, SW
Washington D.C. 20202


Dear Secretary DeVos:

On November 17, 2017, you met with a handful of teachers and organizations to hear their experiences with the previous administration’s guidance on reducing discipline disparities in our schools. As reported in several news outlets, we understand that this meeting was part of a broader review of 2014’s “Dear colleague” letter and other civil rights protections. We are worried that this administration will rescind this guidance that is aimed to end disproportionate discipline, so that all students can enjoy educational opportunity. These include students with disabilities, boys and girls of color, English learners, and Native American, low-income, and LGBTQ students. To this end, we call on the U.S. Department of Education to support students of all backgrounds and abilities by keeping the school discipline guidance released by the Departments of Education and Justice in 2014.

We recognize that a negative school climate, overly punitive discipline policies, and a lack of focus on supporting the whole child can keep our students from reaching their full potential. Student data from the Civil Rights Data Collection also tells us that suspended, arrested, or expelled students are disproportionately students of color. We have seen firsthand how exclusionary practices negatively impact students’ trajectories and feeds the school-to-prison pipeline. Once suspended or expelled, students are more likely to drop out of school and be incarcerated. Students should be in class, not handcuffs.

The federal guidance from 2014’s “Dear colleague” letter was formulated in response to our students’ struggles for equitable disciplinary practices and path to academic success. This federal guidance remains essential for holding our school systems accountable at the local level and for keeping this issue at the center of the national dialogue so that communities can work together to create solutions that bring an end to racial and discipline disparities and provide support so that all students can succeed in our nation.

We urge you to keep the school discipline guidance released in 2014.

All students deserve a Department of Education that will stand up for policies that improve their educational experience and lead to their long-term success.



African American Ministers In Action

Allies for Educational Equity

Center for American Progress

Clearinghouse on Women's Issues

Council for Exceptional Children

Educators for Excellence

Feminist Majority Foundation

Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

National Association of Secondary School Principals

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Down Syndrome Congress

National Education Association

National Network of State Teachers of the Year

People For the American Way

Stand for Children


Teach Plus

The Arc of the United States

The Education Trust

The National Indian Education Association

The New Teacher Project