Explainer – Betsy DeVos and School Discipline

Hope for Students has released an Open Letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in response to her comments about school discipline and subsequent efforts by the Trump Administration to roll-back Federal guidelines that currently protect some of our nation’s most vulnerable students from unequal punishment. The open letter has been signed by more than 20,000 people.

Here’s what you need to know:

In the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has signaled her intention to revisit, and potentially overturn, an Obama-era school discipline guidance jointly authored by the Department of Education and Department of Justice in 2014 as a Dear Colleague letter.

The departments released the guidance in response to Federal civil rights data showing students of color and students with disabilities are punished more often and more severely than white students. For example:

African-American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their white peers without disabilities to be expelled or suspended. Although African-American students represent 15% of students, they make up 35% of students suspended once, 44% of those suspended more than once, and 36% of students expelled. Further, over 50% of students who were involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are Hispanic or African-American.

The guidance offered by DOJ and DOE in this letter represents an important step forward towards ensuring our schools treats all students equitably, regardless of race or ability. It’s our view that these rules need to be protected and strengthened. Weakening or repealing these rules (or refusing to enforce them) harms our ability to ensure that all God’s children receive a high quality education, especially the most vulnerable.

In a March 2018 interview on 60 Minutes, Secretary DeVos refused to say if she was troubled by data showing unequal punishment of black and white students for the same infraction, or if she believed this represented institutional racism, saying, “Arguably, all of these issues comes down to individual kids.”

The very next day, the Trump Administration announced the creation of a School Safety Task Force, chaired by Secretary DeVos, that is expected to make a recommendations on whether to repeal the 2014 guidance.

Putting aside how troubling it is that the Trump Administration is using legitimate public concerns about school safety as an excuse to potentially make it easier to punish students of color—it’s even more troubling to consider the potential impact of repealing existing guidance when the facts show a systemwide problem.

Showing 5 comments
  • Wanda J. Jones
    Reply

    White politicians and white people in authority will continue to discriminate against our students of color, Black and Hispanic, until we rise up and say, WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE. We all need to come together and decide what we must do to demand equality. Until that happens, discrimination will continue to prevail.

  • Karen Zwart
    Reply

    All students deserve eequal treatment and a plan of recourse if they feel this has not happened. When are we going to be respectfual of every human being all the time. We need more conversations and opportunities for folks to express their concerns in a place where they can feel heard and together make changes that work for all.

  • Linsey Magrath
    Reply

    To put it in words that should mean the most to you, Betsy, God created us all EQUAL. That means ALL of God’s children deserve the same treatment and opportunity. You were blessed to be born to a billionaire and a married billionaire so you cannot even begin to state you “understand” the education/racial problem. Treat ALL the people the SAME ALL the time. It is EXACTLY WWJD.

  • Vera J Morgan
    Reply

    Under the skin we all look the same. The brain too is the same., Some students are treated different and that is not right. Perhaps we should all wear dark sunglasses. Betsy was put in office to help all studsents!!!!

  • Judith
    Reply

    Great job! Will pray continuously for justice for our children and grandchildren. Heaven is not far from the earth. God is our judge of justice.

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