Historic Federal School Discipline Guidance Released


Today U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder released historic Federal School Discipline Guidance that lays out school districts’ civil rights obligations when it comes to school discipline.

NESRI and the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) applaud the release of the Guidance, which provides legal direction for schools to address racial discrimination and tools to implement positive approaches that reduce suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement while improving safety.

The Guidance reaffirms the work of NESRI partners and DSC members across the country who have been organizing students, parents and teachers to fight against discriminatory discipline policies and advocate for positive approaches, including social and emotional learning, restorative practices and school-wide positive behavior supports.

Tania Romero, a school social worker in New York City and member of NESRI partner Teachers Unite, believes that “Local districts need to prioritize social and emotional learning and restorative practices. As educators we need resources–funding, training, and support–to fully bring more humane and just alternatives to zero tolerance approaches into the culture of our schools. I hope New York City will take heed of this guidance.”

DSC members from Georgia, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC attended the event at Frederick Douglas High School in Baltimore today where the Departments of Education and Justice released the guidance.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reminded us why the Guidance is needed. African American students are three times as likely to be suspended from school than their white peers. As noted in the Guidance, research shows that these substantial racial disparities are not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color.

Attorney General Eric Holder was also present at the release stating that, “Far too many students are diverted from a path to success by harsh discipline.” The Guidance includes as part of their suggested best practices recommendations, that there should be more school-based counselors and social workers and that schools should implement preventive practices such as peer mediation and restorative justice.

The DSC will urge changes to our schools’ discipline codes and practices. This will tell school boards and administrators that failure to change puts them at greater risk for civil rights complaints and investigations.

You can read DSC's Press Release here.

You can access the full School Discipline Guidance and resources from the Department of Education and Justice at