Many schools are abandoning their “zero tolerance” policies because, as we reported, they have proved to be counterproductive. But the Obama administration feels there is another reason these policies should be stopped — they promote disparities in how students of different races are punished for violating school rules. “More than half of students in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Hispanic or black, civil rights data show,” reports The Grio.
“In short, racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem,” according to a letter sent to schools but the administration.
Civil rights advocates have long claimed that a “school-to-prison” system relates to overzealous school discipline policies that more often target black and Hispanic students. This brings them out of school and into the court system.
The recommendations urge schools to ensure that all personnel are trained in classroom management, conflict resolution and approaches to de-escalate classroom disruptions.
The new guidelines by the White House are being called by The American Civil Liberties Union as “ground-breaking.”
Black students without disabilities in U.S. schools were more than three times as likely as whites to be expelled or suspended, according to government civil rights data from 2011-2012. “Although black students made up 15 percent of students in the data collection, they made up more than a third of students suspended once, 44 percent of those suspended more than once and more than a third of students expelled,” reports The Grio.
“Zero-tolerance” policies dole out swift punishment for offenses such as truancy, smoking or carrying a weapon.
“Ordinary troublemaking can sometimes provoke responses that are overly severe,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a radio interview.
“A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct,” he said.
“In our investigations, we have found cases where African-American students were disciplined more harshly and more frequently because of their race than similarly situated white students,” the Justice Department and Education Department said in the letter to school districts, reports The Salt Lake Tribune. “In short, racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem.”
The government also wants schools to collect and monitor data on actions taken by security or police officers to ensure nondiscrimination.