The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on Tuesday submitted public comments to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights regarding harsh school discipline polices that disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities. Such policies contribute to segregation in schools, disengagement by students, and a vicious cycle that sends too many young people through the juvenile justice system.
In comments submitted Tuesday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law underscored the importance of federal guidance issued in 2014 and 2016 to reverse the use of harsh school discipline policies that disproportionately affect minority students.
Key points in the comments filed Tuesday include:
- Black children are suspended and expelled at rates three times greater than white students. While Black students make up 16% of student enrollment, they represent 27% of the referrals to law enforcement and 31% of those students subjected to a school-related arrest.
- Students of color are far more likely to be identified as having a disability. Black students are 1.4 times more likely and Native American students are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with a disability than their white and Asian peers. At the convergence of these two harmful trends, students of color with disabilities are suspended or expelled at the highest rates of all students.
- Black boys with disabilities are more than twice as likely as their white peers to receive an out-of-school suspension, while Black girls with disabilities are more than three times as likely as their white peers to receive an out-of-school suspension.
- Despite these consistent trends in discipline rates for students of color as well as students with disabilities, the rate of actual misbehavior for Black and white students is about the same.
“The discipline disparities we see for students of color and students with disabilities are not the result of greater behavioral challenges by these students, and require close examination of the ways in which we respond to and support these students. The long-term, devastating impact of the School to Prison Pipeline is one of the most significant civil rights issues of our time,” said Brenda Shum, Director of the Educational Opportunities Project. “We are grateful to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for highlighting the importance of addressing systemic inequities and individual bias in school discipline.”
Read the full comments submitted to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights here.