To Be Equal…Reforming outdated school discipline policies

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(NNPA)—“A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct.”—Eric Holder, United States Attorney General

On Jan. 8, U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Education Secretary, Arne Duncan came to Baltimore’s historic Frederick Douglass High School to announce a comprehensive set of guidelines to tackle the problem of “zero tolerance” disciplinary policies in our schools. As the National Urban League and others have been pointing out for years, students of color and students with disabilities receive disproportionately more and markedly harsher punishments for the same misbehaviors as other students. This obviously discriminatory treatment is not only denying an education to thousands of minority students, it is funneling too many of them into the criminal justice system and feeding the school-to-prison pipeline.

According to data collected by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, African-American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their White peers without disabilities to be expelled or suspended. The New York Times, in its Sunday editorial, called the treatment of disabled students “a national disgrace.” The Times cites a finding by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California that “in ten states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware and Illinois, more than a quarter of Black students with disabilities were suspended in the 2009-10 school year.”

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