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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Press Release - The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Civil and Human Rights Coalition Calls for Vigorous Enforcement of Civil Rights Laws to Reduce Discrimination in School Discipline

For Immediate Release
Contact: Scott Simpson, 202.466.2061, simpson@civilrights.org
January 8, 2014

WASHINGTON – Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released the statement below in response to the Department of Education’s release of guidance intended to reduce rampant discrimination in school discipline:

“Today’s release of long overdue guidance on racial discrimination in school discipline is an important step forward in creating a more equitable education system. But this guidance alone will not eliminate our country’s dropout crisis, race-and-class-based achievement gaps, and the school-to-prison pipeline. The real test of the government’s commitment to fixing these entrenched problems will be its willingness to take strong and immediate enforcement actions regarding school districts with the worst records.

Zero tolerance policies, corporal punishment, suspensions, and expulsions have long had a discriminatory impact on students of color and students with disabilities. For example, while African Americans accounted for 15 percent of students surveyed in the most recent Civil Rights Data Collection, they represent 35 percent of students with one suspension and 44 percent of students with two or more suspensions. Students with disabilities also experience significant discrimination and are more than two times as likely to be suspended as their peers.

The Leadership Conference recognizes the importance of today’s guidance and the many helpful suggestions it makes to schools. However, this administration must do more than provide suggestions to schools on how to narrow these unlawful disparities. It must also use enhanced enforcement and investigation and the power of the purse to require the elimination of these disparities outright.  

Furthermore, we cannot expect schools with budgets that have been cut to the bone to suddenly muster the resources to eliminate conditions that exacerbate discipline challenges and put in place the instructional programs, school leadership, professional development, and facility upgrades needed to truly transform learning and working conditions.  President Obama and Secretary Duncan can respond to this need by immediately implementing the recommendations of the Equity and Excellence Commission and directing all appropriate federal offices to prepared detailed blueprints on how each will execute the Commission’s recommendations.

Now is the time for the administration to renew its commitment and take concrete steps to eliminate these disparities.”

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.

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