Creating Safe and Inclusive Schools: The Federal Role in Addressing Discriminatory School Discipline

Data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights Data Collection demonstrate that students of color, students with disabilities, and other historically underserved students, are disproportionately suspended and expelled compared with their White and nondisabled peers. These disparities are not a result of more incidences of misbehavior; instead, students of color are punished more harshly for the same behaviors, especially non-violent offenses like tardiness or “talking out of turn.” Research shows that these discriminatory and exclusionary discipline practices have a significant negative impact on these same students as even one suspension can double the likelihood of a student dropping out. Research also shows that zero-tolerance policies make schools less effective and less safe—not safer—for students.

 

Source: Creating Safe and Inclusive Schools: The Federal Role in Addressing Discriminatory School Discipline

Students in Detroit Are Suing the State Because They Weren’t Taught to Read

Students in Detroit Are Suing the State Because They Weren’t Taught to Read

Students walk outside Detroit’s Pershing High, which isn’t one of the institutions named in the suit but was identified as one of the city’s lowest-performing schools CARLOS OSORIO / AP

What to do when a school is infested with vermin, when textbooks are outdated, when students can’t even read? Perhaps the answer is sue the government.

That’s what seven students in Detroit have done. Their class-action suit filed against the state of Michigan asserts that education is a basic right, and that they have been denied it.

 Usually, such education-equity cases wend their way through state courts, as all 50 state constitutions mandate public-education systems, while the country’s guiding document doesn’t even include the word education. But this case, Gary B. v. Snyder, was filed in federal court, and thus seeks to invoke the Constitution. And as of this week, it’s headed to the federal appeals court in Cincinnati.

The lawyers filing the suit—from the pro bono Los Angeles firm Public Counsel—contend that the students (who attend five of Detroit’s lowest-performing schools) are receiving an education so inferior and underfunded that it’s as if they’re not attending school at all. The 100-page-plus complaint alleges that the state of Michigan (which has overseen Detroit’s public schools for nearly two decades) is depriving these children—97 percent of whom are students of color—of their constitutional rights to liberty and nondiscrimination by denying them access to basic literacy. Almost all the students at these schools perform well below grade level in reading and writing, and, the suit argues, those skills are necessary to function properly in society. It’s the first case to argue that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to become literate (and thus to be educated) because other rights in the Constitution necessarily require the ability to read.

 

Continue reading