WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Education reached an agreement with the Oklahoma City Public Schools to address disproportionate discipline of black students after an investigation revealed that black students were significantly overrepresented in school discipline actions. Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), issued the following statement:
“Much work remains to be done to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and its disproportionate impact on students of color,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The Lawyers’ Committee welcomes this important resolution with the Oklahoma City Public Schools, a district in which Black students received in-school and out-of-school suspensions and were referred to law enforcement at far greater rates than white students. This agreement also demonstrates the Department’s commitment to addressing the devastating impact of exclusionary school discipline practices for all students, including some of our most marginalized students.”
The school-to-prison pipeline generally refers to the collection of exclusionary school discipline policies and practices that push our nation’s schoolchildren out of the classroom and into the juvenile justice system. Research suggests that a highly punitive approach to school discipline and the growing presence of police on school campuses undermines the safety and success of all students. However, data shows that exclusionary school discipline policies tend to have a disproportionate impact on students of color. Indeed, a 2014 report by the Department confirmed that nationally, black students are three times more likely to be expelled than their white peers and while black students represent 16% of the overall student enrollment nationwide they represent 27% of those referred to law enforcement and 31% of those subjected to school-based arrests.
“This agreement offers guidance to those of us who challenge the civil rights implications of exclusionary school discipline policies, and we encourage our school partners to voluntarily implement some of the interventions adopted in Oklahoma City including a review of the role of school resource officers, positive behavioral supports, and measures to address school climate,” said Clarke.