It seems pretty likely that the Trump administration will revise or rescind an Obama-era directive intended to address racial disparities in school disciplinary actions. The “Dear Colleague” letter in question, issued by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice in 2014, has been the subject of much debate of late. It stated that school districts could be investigated and found guilty of violating students’ civil rights when doling out punishments, even if the discipline policies were race-neutral and implemented in even-handed ways (in other words, even if there was no evidence of discriminatory treatment of students).
Yet, the latest federal discipline data, released earlier this month, show that African-American students continue to be disciplined at higher rates than white students. While U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos held roundtable meetings with lawmakers in April to hear debates about the guidance from both sides, there is no timeline for the administration’s final decision.
But school discipline reform did not begin with President Barack Obama, and it won’t end with President Donald Trump. Efforts for change have been gaining steam for years, which legislatures and school boards have increasingly codified into laws and practices at state and local levels.
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