The Obama administration issued guidelines today that recommended public school officials use law enforcement ONLY as a last resort for disciplining students, a response to a rise in zero-tolerance policies that have disproportionately increased the number of arrests, suspensions and expulsions of minority students for even minor, nonviolent offenses. There is evidence that suggests such stringsnt policies are a part of the school to prison pipeline.
The secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and the attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., released a 35 page document that outlined more appropriate means of discipline, including counseling for students, coaching for teachers and disciplinary officers, and sessions to teach social and emotional skills —that could reduce the time students spend out of school as punishment.
“The widespread use of suspensions and expulsions has tremendous costs,” Mr. Duncan wrote in a letter to school officials. “Students who are suspended or expelled from school may be unsupervised during daytime hours and cannot benefit from great teaching, positive peer interactions and adult mentorship offered in class and in school.”
Data collected by the Education Department shows that minorities — particularly black boys and students with disabilities face the harshest discipline in schools.
According to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, black students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended or expelled. And an analysis of the federal data by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that in 10 states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware and Illinois, more than a quarter of black students with disabilities were suspended in the 2009-10 school year.
As school districts have placed more police officers on campuses, criminal charges against children have drastically increased, a trend that has alarmed civil rights groups and others concerned about the safety and educational welfare of public-school students.
The Obama administration’s document also set guidelines for reducing arrests and keeping discipline within schools.