DOE Releases New Civil Rights Data Exposing Harsh Discipline Measures Used In Schools

March 6, 2012 12:00 am

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Obama Administration Reinstates and Expands Data Collection That Is Crucial In Exposing and Ending School-To-Prison Pipeline

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WASHINGTON – The Department of Education today released data revealing the use of overly punitive discipline measures in our nation’s public schools and certain state-run juvenile justice facilities.

The Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), which began in 1968, was discontinued under the Bush Administration in 2006. The ACLU and other civil rights groups successfully appealed to the Obama Administration to reinstate the data collection and to expand it to include new categories of data on the use of school discipline, which was released today.

“The CRDC’s information is crucial to exposing the unnecessarily harsh punishments children face in school, such as the use of corporal punishment, which many people don’t realize continues even in this day and age,” said Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU senior legislative counsel. “In addition, harsh punishments, such as expulsions under zero-tolerance policies and referrals to law enforcement, increase the likelihood that students, particularly students of color and those with disabilities, will be pushed out of school and caught up in the criminal justice system.”

The data — which is disaggregated by race/ethnicity, limited English proficiency status, disability and sex will help civil rights groups advocate on behalf these vulnerable students and work toward ending the school-to-prison pipeline.

Today’s data reveals, for example, that African-American students were three and half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers in the 2009-10 school year. Past research suggests African-American students are often punished more severely for the same infractions.

Other statistics from the Department of Education’s data are equally alarming: more than 70 percent of the students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Latino or African-American. Additionally, these two minority groups, though they represent less than half of the student body, made up more than half of the students expelled under zero-tolerance policies. In addition, students covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are more than twice as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions.

The ACLU continues to advocate that future CRDCs contain data about the number of incidents of all school discipline categories, not just the number of students subjected to the practices. This information will give a more detailed and accurate view of the use and frequency of discipline in our nation’s schools.

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