ACLU Hails Obama Administration's Supportive School Discipline Initiative

July 21, 2011 10:20 pm

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union has been leading efforts with the Administration to identify and reduce overly punitive school discipline policies that push students out of school and into the criminal justice system. The ACLU commends Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for launching the Supportive School Discipline Initiative. This collaborative project between the Department of Justice and the Department of Education will support good school discipline practices in our nation’s schools.

“Maintaining a positive school climate is a critical responsibility of schools. Relying on exclusionary discipline practices, such as suspension, expulsion and arrest have not been found to make schools safer or more productive. Improper school discipline undermines the educational mission of our nation’s schools,” said Deborah J. Vagins, American Civil Liberties Union senior legislative counsel.

The Supportive School Discipline Initiative will assist students by, for example, developing necessary agency guidance to ensure that school discipline policies and practices comply with the nation’s civil rights laws, promote positive disciplinary alternatives and collaborate on the data collection necessary to inform this work.

Public schools are suspending and expelling students at a rate nearly double that of 1974. Each year, over three million students are suspended and over 100,000 are expelled nationally. Students of color and students with disabilities bear a disproportionate burden of these punishments when compared to their white, non-disabled peers. African-American students are nearly three times as likely to be suspended and 3.5 times as likely to be expelled, and Latino students are 1.5 times as likely to be suspended and twice as likely to be expelled. Students with disabilities are suspended and expelled at a rate roughly twice that of their non-disabled peers.

“The ACLU hopes that this new collaborative project will begin to address these shocking disparities,” Vagins said.

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