LAJC Condemns Recs to Pull Discipline Guidance
Legal Director, JustChildren Program, Legal Aid Justice Center
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LAJC Condemns Federal Recommendations to Rescind Student Civil Rights Protections
Richmond, Virginia (December 19, 2018) – Recommendations from the Federal Commission on School Safety to rescind important school discipline guidance will make schools less safe for Virginia’s children. The Commission’s final report, released yesterday, recommends rescission of the 2014 “Rethink School Discipline” federal guidance package, which instructed school divisions on how to identify and avoid discriminatory discipline practices. The guidance emphasized the duty of every school district to create and maintain safe, fair, and nurturing schools for all students without relying upon harsh, overly broad disciplinary practices that push children out of school and into the criminal justice system.
“Years of research indicate that overly punitive school discipline policies can have a disproportionately harmful effect on students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students,” said Rachael Deane, Legal Director of LAJC’s JustChildren Program. “Yesterday’s recommendation is yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to restrict student civil rights, but make no mistake: our public schools still have a legal and moral obligation to educate all children, regardless of race, color, national origin, immigration status, sex, gender, or disability.”
In October, Legal Aid Justice Center released a report, Suspended Progress 2018, which documented astonishing racial disparities in the use of exclusionary discipline in Virginia’s public schools during the 2016-17 school year. The report showed that Virginia public schools issued over 127,800 out-of-school suspensions to over 73,000 individual students and that Black students were 4.5 times more likely to be suspended than Hispanic and white students.
In 2018, Virginia lawmakers have begun to make significant bipartisan progress on school discipline and school safety. In June, Governor Northam signed two new school discipline laws that limit the use of exclusionary discipline in Virginia’s K-12 schools. In November, the House Select Committee on School Safety issued a comprehensive set of school safety recommendations that emphasize a holistic approach to student safety, including examining the role of school counselors in keeping all students safe. And last week, Governor Northam announced a budget amendment that would add more counselors to Virginia’s schools.
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, employment rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance.