The U.S. Dept. of Education and Dept. of Justice Jan. 8 released groundbreaking federal guidance to assist schools in making their disciplinary practices, which research shows disproportionately impacts youth of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ( LGBT ) youth, less discriminatory while encouraging positive interventions over student push-out or removal.
The guidelines, however, do not specifically reference LGBT youth. Last year GLSEN met with the Departments to urge them to include LGBT-specific language to address the particular challenges LGBT youth face. Still, even without references to LGBT youth, the guidelines represent a huge step forward in GLSEN and our partners' efforts to end the school-to-prison pipeline and ensure that all students are treated equally and fairly in all disciplinary situations.
"Ending discriminatory practices in school discipline is one of the most critical civil rights issues facing K-12 education today," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "GLSEN commends the Departments of Education and Justice for these long-overdo guidelines that will help to erode decades of policies that have robbed countless youth of a chance to get an education and forced many of them out of school or into the criminal justice system.
"While the omission of the specific challenges facing LGBT youth is disappointing, we are pleased that the guidelines focus on prevention and intervention strategies by supporting developmentally appropriate and proportional responses to school discipline that encourage and reinforce positive school climate. The guidelines also give clear alternatives to the flawed zero-tolerance policies that have plagued many districts and led to high levels of discipline disparities. We encourage the Departments to examine the extent and effects of discipline disparities among LGBT youth and to provide leadership and guidance to ensure that school discipline practices do not discriminate on basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."
The development and release of the federal guidance is the result a collaborative projectthe Supportive School Discipline Initiativebetween the Department of Education and Department of Justice and the School Discipline Consensus Project managed by the Council of State Governments. GLSEN is a member of the Council of State Government stakeholder task force working on the Discipline Consensus Project.
See guidelines here: www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/index.html .
CPS statement on guidelines
CHICAGO - "The Chicago Teachers Union welcomes today's announcement by the federal government of new guidelines holding schools accountable for fairness and equity in school discipline. For years the CTU has supported alternative methods to deal with discipline issues in our schools. Far too many black and Latino students are suspended, expelled and forced to drop out of school, creating a school to prison pipeline. In a district where black youth represent 42 percent of Chicago Public Schools students, this group accounted for 75 percent of school-based arrests in 2012," according to a report by Project NIA, "Policing Chicago Public Schools."
CTU's own research shows CPS had the highest suspension rate of all big-city school districts in 2008, with 13% of students suspended. One out of every four Black male students was suspended. Black males comprised nearly the majority of suspensions despite being only a quarter of the CPS student population. ( See: The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve )
"Unfortunately, districts often call for reducing punitive discipline without investing in social workers, school psychologists, counselors and other expert-run programs that help students deal with tensions in a productive and healthy manner. CPS is no exception. Unless school districts invest in the appropriate staff and programming this announcement will not adequately address the problem in Chicago or elsewhere."