Over 70 Education Leaders Want Devos to Keep Obama-Era Discipline Rules

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Zachery Schmidt Contributor
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Education leaders ranging from charter organizations, state districts and teacher unions sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos asking that Obama-era punishment policies remain intact.

The July 10 letter with more than 70 signatures wants the Trump administration to limit schools from using suspension and expulsion as a punishment. The group of education leaders also wants to remove the racial differences in discipline.

Devos received a letter signed by 60 Congress members addressing excessive school discipline in July 2017.

Letter signers agreed on four key details. First, the federal government should play a crucial role in upholding students’ civil rights. Second, rethinking discipline is important because inaction is bad. Thirdly, a one-size solution doesn’t exist for student discipline. Finally, the government should be more dedicated to students’ and staff’s physical and emotional health.

The entities who signed this letter want to find an “intersection of excellence, equity, and education” with these four details.

Obama implemented these policies in 2014 to address discrepancies in disciple among race and disabilities. These policies followed a model made in Broward County, Florida, according to the Heritage Foundation. A local newspaper described these policies as a “culture of leniency” that allows students to “engage in an endless loop of violations and second chances.”

The beginning of the letter addresses the United States Department of Education and the Department of Justice, asking both departments to “address racial and other disparities in school discipline.”

People and organizations who signed this letter take their commitment “to students and families very seriously: not only to provide them with an excellent education that affords them access the fullest range of life options.”

Also, the letter states that “exclusionary discipline, such as out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, can be harmful to students and can negatively impact both their short-term school achievement and long-term life outcomes.”

Statistics used in the letter support its case that disparities exist in school discipline. For example, the 2013–2014 Civil Rights Data Collection found students that have disabilities and students of color get harsher punishments.

Supporters of the letter believe that students of color and disabilities, as well as LGBT students, deal with harsher discipline than other students. This discipline results in “students failing in school or students not finishing school,” according to the letter.

Devos has not released a timeline for when she will make her decision.