Trump administration to repeal Obama-era school discipline rules
The Trump administration is set to abandon the race-based school discipline policies created by President Obama that stressed leniency to minority students who misbehave.
Those rules emerged when studies showed that minority students received suspensions and expulsions at a greater rate than white students.
The administration efforts to repeal the rules grew out of a commission set up to examine school shootings and other violence.
“The federal government’s paramount obligation is to guarantee student safety, including when it is acting to ensure that educational programs and policies are administered in a racially neutral fashion,” the commission wrote. “However, where well-meaning but flawed policies endanger student safety, they must be changed.”
Disability and civil rights advocates will almost certainly denounce the latest policy maneuver. The Obama administration policies were adopted after strong evidence emerged that minority students were receiving more suspensions and tougher punishments than white students for the same or lesser offenses, while disabled students were too quickly being shunted into remedial or special-education programs.
“Safety is a red herring intended to raise fears about our own children,” said Eve Hill, a disability rights lawyer at Brown, Goldstein & Levy who worked on the Obama-era discipline guidance while a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The Education and Justice Departments plan to send a joint letter this week announcing the rescinding of policy statements dating to 2014, according to a draft letter signed by Kenneth L. Marcus, the Education Department’s head of civil rights, and Eric S. Dreiband, assistant attorney general for civil rights.
The 2014 Obama policy advised schools on how to dole out discipline in a nondiscriminatory manner and examine education data to look for racial disparities that could flag a federal civil rights violation. Though the guidance is nonbinding, critics have argued that the edict pressured districts to keep suspensions low at the expense of student safety.
Not just student safety, but the safety of faculty as well. The Obama rules presupposed that suburban white kids and inner city minority students misbehaved in the same way at the same rates, but the minority kids were punished more severely with suspensions. Race, not class, was the determining factor. Rather than risk a civil rights action by the Justice Department, school systems adopted more lenient disciplinary standards that, predictably, led to greater violence against students and teachers.
No doubt there will be a lawsuit to keep these policies intact. But Obama's race based rules in education will be hard to completely eradicate given how widespread their effect has been.