OLYMPIA—December 18, 2018—In 2014, the United States (U.S.) Department of Education, under President Obama, rolled out guidance aimed at preventing students of color and students with disabilities from being discriminated against for minor, nonviolent offenses at school. Today, a school safety commission led by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recommended that guidance be rescinded.
The data is clear. Students of color and students with disabilities are disciplined at disproportionate rates. In the 2016–17 school year, the discipline rate for students receiving special education services was 3.6 percent higher than the statewide average. The discipline rate for black students was 3.9 percent higher than the statewide average, and for Latino students, the rate was 0.6 percent higher than the statewide average.
This is an equity issue. Each day a student misses class for disciplinary purposes is a day they miss learning.
The bottom line is this: Rescinding the 2014 guidelines will have no effect on Washington’s laws and rules related to student discipline. In addition, this will have no effect on the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s (OSPI) enforcement of civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in the administration of student discipline.
Under state law, Washington school districts must adopt and follow the student discipline rules released by OSPI in August. The rules encourage schools to use best practices in discipline, and prohibit schools from excluding students from school for absences or tardiness, among other things.
Additionally, OSPI will continue to monitor school districts for compliance with state civil rights rules, which require districts to review student discipline data to identify disproportionalities based on race, sex, English learner status, and disability. Districts should take prompt action to ensure any disproportionalities are not the result of discrimination.
For questions about student discipline, please contact OSPI’s student discipline team.