On January 8, the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice issued a five-part Guidance Package to assist schools in meeting their obligations under Federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The Departments noted that their guidance was issued in response to findings that students of certain racial or ethnic groups tend to be disciplined more often and more harshly than their peers, often resulting in a loss of instructional time due to exclusionary disciplinary sanctions.  For example, OCR has found that African-American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their white peers without disabilities to be suspected or expelled. According to the Dear Colleague Letter contained within the Guidance Package, the Departments believe “racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem.” The Guidance Package includes:

A Dear Colleague Letter that explains the nondiscrimination requirements of Titles IV and VI and reminds schools of their legal obligations to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin.  In the Appendix to the Dear Colleague Letter, the Departments provide a set of recommendations to assist schools in developing and implementing policies and practices in a manner consistent with their legal obligations; Guiding Principles based on research and best practices, describing three key principles and related action steps to guide efforts to improve school discipline; A Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources that indexes a variety of resources addressing school climate and school discipline; An online tool, the Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations, which compares relevant school discipline laws for each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; and An Overview of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative that outlines ongoing and completed Federal efforts to address issues of school climate and school discipline.

The Department of Education and Department of Justice will host a series of webinars about the resources contained in the Guidance Package.