Bennet, Colleagues Ask DeVos for Answers on Disciplinary Protections For Minority Students

Bicameral legislators ask Devos to confirm or deny reports of Department walking back school discipline guidelines

Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined 15 Senators and 36 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in sending a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos asking her not to revoke or modify school discipline guidelines, following press reports that suggest she is considering a repeal of the protections.

In January 2014, the Department of Education under President Obama released school discipline guidelines to assist states, districts, and schools to develop and implement practices that address the tendencies of school discipline policies to disproportionately harm students of color and students with disabilities. These guidelines are not mandatory, yet recent reports suggest DeVos is considering revoking them.

"We write to express our support for efforts to improve school climate and address the persistent, disproportionate impact of exclusionary and aversive discipline practices on groups of historically marginalized students, such as students of color," the lawmakers wrote. "We strongly urge you to maintain guidance on discipline and compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin."

The lawmakers highlighted statistics that indicate minority students across the country are suspended and disciplined at much higher rates than their white peers. They also referenced a 2017 Legal Aid Justice Center study which notes that, while African American students make up only 23 percent of public school enrollment, they account for 60 percent of suspensions.

"While we hope recent reporting that the Department is considering revoking or modifying this critical guidance on school discipline is inaccurate, by January 5, 2018, we request that you confirm your Department will not be revoking or modifying this critical guidance for upholding the civil rights of students under Title VI," the lawmakers concluded.

The letter is supported by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

A copy of the letter is available HERE.