Today, in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to rescind the 2014 Discipline Guidance, Lauren Morando Rhim, executive director for the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) issued the following statement:
“Student civil rights protections exist to safeguard against explicit and implicit discriminatory practices that disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities as documented in an abundance of research and school-reported data. The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) is disappointed that the U.S. Department of Education has decided to rescind the 2014 Discipline Guidance and is particularly alarmed by the Department’s questioning that implicit discrimination exists. The guidance was useful in helping schools and districts design programs that curb disproportionate discipline towards students of color and students with disabilities.
Many traditional public and charter schools, like Kingsman Academy Public Charter School in Washington D.C., have adopted policies identified in the discipline guidance and successfully maintained safe school environments while limiting the need for exclusionary discipline practices. Such school environments demonstrate that it is possible to adopt the guidance as a means to foster safe schools.
The federal Offices for Civil Rights at both Education and Justice, in partnership with state education agencies have an obligation to uphold students’ civil rights and not rollback protections. Students with disabilities and students of color deserve better. Now more than ever, schools must continue to make progress towards safe and inclusive learning environments.