Education Leaders Call for U.S. Education and Justice Departments to Keep School Discipline Guidance Protecting Students’ Civil Rights
July 10 (New York) — More than 70 educational leaders from school districts, state governments, charter schools, nonprofits and advocacy organizations issued a public letter today calling for the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice to keep the federal school discipline guidance that protects students’ civil rights. The letter also calls for the Departments to commit to do more to end the school-to-prison pipeline.
The letter is backed by a coalition of school district leaders, state education chiefs, charter school leaders and education nonprofits that are not always aligned on policy issues, but the groups and individuals have found common ground on the critical issue of equity in school discipline.
“We have talked to teachers across this country and they believe it is the responsibility of schools to reverse patterns of discrimination, not cement them,” said Evan Stone, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of the teacher-led organization Educators for Excellence (E4E). “Good teachers want to do right by students and they are committed to holding students accountable for high standards of behavior without excluding them from the classroom.”
“This letter is partly about imploring the federal government to do their job in upholding students’ civil rights, but it is also a public declaration about our values as an education community,” said Cami Anderson, founder of The Discipline Revolution Project and former Superintendent of Newark Public Schools and the Alternative High Schools in New York City. “Ultimately, we can and must do more to replace antiquated, harsh, ineffective and biased discipline practices with student support systems that allow teachers to move away from these practices and toward alternative approaches to suspensions that help students thrive. This letter is a collective and public commitment to that work — effective change will take time, but we are all dedicated to the journey.”
Discipline disparities have been a focus for Educators for Excellence, which launched its national In Class, Not Cuffs campaign last year in response to reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering repealing Obama-era federal guidance that calls for schools to address persistent disparities in school discipline practices. In April, E4E brought six educators to Washington, D.C., to meet with the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary DeVos. The Discipline Revolution Project also met with Secretary DeVos’ team in the spring to share promising practices for school discipline across the country.
Read the letter here.