New Federal Guidelines Address School Climate and Discipline Disparity

Date 

January 22, 2014

Social 

Portrait of Joyce Harris
Joyce Harris, Director - Region X Equity Assistance Center

In early January, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice released a school discipline guidance package to help states, districts, and schools enhance school climate and make sure their policies and practices comply with federal law. Significant numbers of students miss class each year due to suspensions and expulsions, even for minor infractions of school rules, and students of color and with disabilities are disproportionately impacted. The guidance package—which lists the Region X Equity Assistance Center at Education Northwest (EAC) among its resources—aims to help create safe and positive school climates, which are essential for boosting student academic success and closing achievement gaps.

"Effective teaching and learning cannot take place unless students feel safe at school," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a press release on the new guidance. "Positive discipline policies can help create safer learning environments without relying heavily on suspensions and expulsions. Schools also must understand their civil rights obligations and avoid unfair disciplinary practices. We need to keep students in class where they can learn. These resources are a step in the right direction.”

The guidance packet, which contains a Dear Colleague letter and an overview of the supportive school discipline initiative, among other resources, is available at the U.S. Department of Education website.