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Advocates Convey Support for Civil Rights and School Safety to Secretary DeVos

For Immediate Release April 4, 2018

WASHINGTON – Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and AAUW attended the School Safety and Climate Summit hosted by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

During their roundtable discussion with Secretary DeVos, civil rights advocates expressed their frustration about the absence of diverse communities in the conversation, their continued objection to anti-civil rights actions by the department, and their continued support for vital guidance on nondiscrimination in school discipline. Attendees voiced their support for a letter to the secretary from civil rights organizations representing girls, students with disabilities, and students who are LGBTQ, Native American, and Latino who were excluded from the summit.

“We met with Secretary DeVos to emphasize our grave concerns about the U.S. Department of Education turning the clock back on important gains in promoting safe and welcoming schools for students of color. The long-term, devastating impact of the School to Prison Pipeline is one of the most significant civil rights issues of our time. Yet instead of seeking to address systemic inequities in school discipline, this administration may roll back protections for African American, Latino, and other minority students in the name of school safety. This misguided effort must be rejected. Instead, the Department of Education must retain its school discipline guidance and focus on building the positive, nurturing school climates that will ultimately lead to safer schools for all students,” said Brenda Shum, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Liz King, senior policy analyst and director of education policy for The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said “All children deserve to be safe and treated fairly in schools, but that goal cannot be achieved by undermining their civil rights or excluding their communities from conversations about their safety. This administration has taken one action after another to make schools less safe for LGBTQ students, sexual assault survivors, and any child who experiences systemic discrimination. It’s time to reverse course and provide educators and schools the resources and information they need to protect children and support their learning and development, not make it easier to kick children of color out of school.”

“Racial discrimination in our nation’s educational systems persists and both the Departments of Education and Justice are failing to protect the civil rights and educational future of our Black and brown students,” said Todd A. Cox, director of policy at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “This administration must stop endangering students of color and instead ensure equal educational opportunities and foster educational excellence by upholding the federal school discipline guidance and promoting policies and programs that keep students safe.”

“For over 135 years, AAUW has supported a strong system of public education that promotes gender fairness, equity, and diversity. Any attempts to rescind the 2014 school discipline guidance runs in direct opposition to our commitment to the advancement of all women and girls and to an education free of discrimination. We urge the Department of Education to stand by its commitment to protect students’ civil rights by keeping the effective and helpful guidance in place and by ensuring that no federal dollars are being used to underwrite discrimination against children of color, girls, children with disabilities, and LGBTQ youth,” said Deborah J. Vagins, senior vice president of public policy and research at the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

About The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Lawyers' Committee, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The Lawyers' Committee celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 as it continued its quest of "Moving America Toward Justice." The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending, community development, employment, voting, education and environmental justice.

For more information about the Lawyers' Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.

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