The Civil Rights Act at 50: Arne Duncan at Howard University

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 laid the groundwork for a much broader mission to fulfill the American promise of equal opportunity – and that is why it is not just part of our history but part of our future.

Students of color have made enormous gains since 1964. And yet the rising significance of education in the global economy has made America’s remaining achievement gaps so much more consequential.

In 1964, fewer than half of young black adults completed four years of high school; in 2012, about 70 percent of black students graduated from high school on time.

Yet despite that and other progress, it’s still not enough to fulfill the promise of the Civil Rights Act. America today still has serious achievement gaps and opportunity gaps.

Since 1991, all regions of the nation have experienced an increase in the percentage of black students who attend highly-segregated schools, where 90 percent of more of students are students of color. Millions of students today lack the opportunity to benefit from attending racially diverse schools. Disproportionate discipline extends to preschool.

America needs the abilities and talents of all its children to succeed and thrive. Our children, and our nation, deserve no less.

A year after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, President Lyndon Johnson spoke at Howard University, saying that freedom alone is not enough to fulfill the rights set forward in the Act.

Johnson told the Howard audience that “you do not wipe away the scars of centuries” of discrimination and bring a person “up to the starting line of the race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” He continued, “The next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights” is not “just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.”

On Tuesday, July 15, at Howard, Secretary Arne Duncan reflected on why civil rights issues remain urgent today at an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

Joined by Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary Duncan talked about the progress America has made, and explained why education is the civil rights issue of our time. Watch the speech or read the transcript.

 

Students Reflect on #civilrightsride Experiences

On Wednesday, July 2, ED commemorated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with a Civil Rights Bus Ride. Some of the original Freedom Riders and current student leaders took a trip from Washington, D.C., to Richmond, Virginia, for a symbolic and celebratory returning ride.

Jessica Faith Carter attends the University of Texas at Austin and is from Houston, Texas

I am a first generation college student, a few semesters away from a Ph.D., my fifth degree. For me, education has been a great equalizer and the reason I have been able to transcend some potentially unfortunate circumstances that may come with being born an African American female, in a low-income community. Instead, I have become an accomplished educator and trailblazer. Without the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I would not have had the opportunity to attend the prestigious institutions of higher education that I have, and I don’t think I would be the leader I am today without the knowledge and experiences that I  gained through education.

On July 2, it was truly life-changing to be in the company of men and women who risked their lives to fight for the rights that I enjoy today. As we rode school buses between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. I was inspired to be among the next generation of leaders who are continuing to advance the work that those luminaries started decades ago. My favorite part of this experience was the dialogue that took place during our journey. Hank Thomas and John Moody — two of the original Freedom Riders — spoke candidly about their experiences as young activists and provided a great deal of insight for future leaders. I stepped off the bus feeling inspired and empowered to continue to work to ensure that every child in this country has access to a high-quality education.

Cindy Nava attends the University of New Mexico and is from Albuquerque, New Mexico

The commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an experience that will be embedded in my heart for the rest of my life.

It is important to remember every stone that has been lifted, every tear that has been shed, and every life that has been taken, in order to appreciate the sacrifices of so many and to acknowledge how far we have come as a country.

As a low-income, immigrant child, the daughter of a house cleaner and a construction worker from Mexico, I could have only dreamt of ever having the opportunity to participate in such an event.

The words of advice, encouragement, and faith from the Freedom Riders truly touched my heart. The words of Assistant Secretary Catherine Lhamon brought a sense of reality and motivation to continue  working toward a better future that represents justice for all. The passion with which Hank Thomas spoke about his days on the freedom buses was inspirational. He brought to life every second of his pain, struggle, and success during the last five decades.

It is time to learn from the successes and the mistakes of past movements. I think that we must operate within the system to create real change, through creation of policy and educational access for all. We must accept the responsibility of continuing to build the bridge for the millions coming behind us, and we must continue work that will connect young with old. By doing this for years to come, we may continue the battle for equality and justice.

For another student’s perspective, check out student blogger Manpreet Teji’s post on the SAALT blog.

Progress and Challenges 60 Years After Brown v. Board

Anniversaries that commemorate milestones in our nation’s history give us the opportunity to reflect and also to look ahead. For me, this week provides such a moment, as we mark the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the case of Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansaswhich struck down Jim Crow segregation in our public schools.

Secretary Duncan stands with students at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site during the 2012 Back-to-School Bus Tour. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Duncan stands with students at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site during the 2012 Back-to-School Bus Tour. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Has our country made progress since the 1950s? Absolutely. Nationally, our high school graduation rate is the highest ever, boosted especially by increases for black and Latino students. In our larger cities, where low-income families and students of color are concentrated, growth in student achievement is outpacing the rest of the country. And at America’s colleges and universities, non-white students now represent 40 percent of enrollment—more than double their proportion in 1980, shortly after the U.S. Department of Education opened with a mission to ensure equal educational opportunities for all students.

As someone born a decade after the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board, I wish I could say that I can only imagine what a segregated school looked like. But in the 50 states and more than 300 schools I have visited as Secretary of Education, far too often I see lingering opportunity gaps, in communities isolated by race and income.

Brown outlawed the notion of “separate but equal” schooling or legal segregation, but it did not stop de facto segregation. Many school districts today are intensely segregated–as much as they have been at any time since after the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many school districts that were desegregating in the 1960s and 1970s have since resegregated. And within metropolitan areas, educational opportunity and diversity can vary widely among dozens of urban and suburban school districts within a short drive of each other.

Today, about four in 10 black and Latino students attend intensely segregated schools, and white students are similarly isolated from their peers of color—only 14 percent of white students attend schools that you could consider multicultural.

By another measure — the roughly 10,000 complaints that my department’s Office for Civil Rights receives each year — inexcusable discrimination continues in too many places. Last year we resolved a case in an Alabama county where the predominately black high school did not offer the same level of challenging college prep courses as the district’s mostly white high school, which offered an array of Advanced Placement classes. In other places, harassment of students, teachers and school administrators has involved the use of Ku Klux Klan robes, nooses, and racist epithets.

Those are anecdotal instances of blatant discrimination and inequity in schools, and fortunately they are rare. Still, new civil rights data from all U.S. schools shows that as early as preschool, black students are disproportionately suspended and expelled. Students of color continue to attend schools that are disproportionately staffed by inexperienced teachers, with fewer resources and opportunities. These schools are commonly among the lowest-performing in their state.

brownvboard

In May 1954, the Supreme Court concluded that the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ had no place in U.S. public education. In May of the following year, the Justices handed down a plan for how schools were to proceed with desegregation. (Photo credit: National Archives and Records Administration)

As the most flagrant examples of race discrimination have declined, new examples of discrimination and inequity have emerged. Cases involving mistreatment of LGBT students and immigrants learning English are all too common. And earlier this year, our civil rights office stepped in to end the practice in a New York school district of systemically reducing the grades of students simply because of their disabilities. So, if your child who needed accommodations due to his difficulty with reading got an A+ on his math test, that accomplishment got knocked down to a demoralizing D. What parent would be OK with that?

As a father, I want my children to attend school in a place that looks like where they will one day work, a school that reflects the diversity of the country in which they were fortunate to be born. Today’s de facto segregation denies students the many benefits that come from diversity, including the opportunity to learn from students of different backgrounds and prepare for the mix of viewpoints, abilities and global cultures they will encounter in their careers.

I reject the notion that we can’t reduce or eliminate the opportunity gaps that we see today. There are big things we can do, and there are big things we are doing now at the federal level.

Nearly every major policy initiative that the Obama Administration has advanced in education aims to improve outcomes for underserved students—from partnering with states to expand preschool programs to raising expectations for all students, ensuring quality teaching in every classroom, expanding the opportunities of technology through broadband, turning around chronically low-performing schools and expanding Pell Grants to pay for college. For the upcoming year, we are proposing a new program called Race to the Top-Equity and Opportunity, which would help states and districts close opportunity gaps and support teachers, leaders and students in high-need communities.

In 1954, Brown v. Board may have seemed like the end of a long struggle for educational equality. In fact, it was the beginning. We face a lot of challenges today in our communities, our country and on our planet. To solve the big problems we need everyone to be able to work together. No one’s talent can go to waste.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education.

For teaching and learning resources about this landmark court case, head here.

Equal Pay Day 2014

Women make up half of the U.S. workforce and yet often, they are paid less than men for doing the same job. Today, April 8, marks an important day for highlighting these unfair disparities:  National Equal Pay Day.

Our nation has made great progress in expanding economic and educational opportunities for women, but business, industry, labor, and government at all levels still have so much work to do to ensure that every American, regardless of their gender, is treated fairly and gets equal pay for equal work.

From the first day he took office, President Obama has been a staunch advocate for fair treatment in the workplace and equal pay. The first piece of legislation the President signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it easier for women to challenge their employers in court if they weren’t paid the same salary as men doing the same job. Shortly afterwards, the President created the National Equal Pay Task Force to crackdown on violations of equal pay laws. He called on various agencies to help support this work, from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to the Department of Justice.

The Department of Education has joined this effort with our federal partners to ensure that the programs and grants we are responsible for can better support women, and narrow or eliminate gender opportunity gaps in education. At ED, we are improving support for women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We are creating pathways to good jobs and careers through high-quality career and technical education (CTE). We are making higher education more affordable, and expanding pathways to postsecondary education for adult learners, workers looking to retrain for new careers, and young people seeking careers that require technical education.

In adult education, recent data has shown that there are gender disparities in skill levels for literacy, numeracy, and problem solving. The new data and evidence of disparities prompted the Department to hold a series of roundtables and engage various equity organizations who work directly with young girls and women. We explored promising models of how to better align local, state, and federal resources when addressing skill issues. And in coming months, ED will be releasing a National Action Plan to help guide our work with respect to low-skilled adults, especially as it relates to gaps in gender equity.

One of the most important—and often overlooked—tools for narrowing gender pay gaps in the United States is Title IX, signed into law in 1972. Title IX bars educational institutions from discriminating against a person on the basis of their sex in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Title IX proved to be one of the great unsung success stories in education. It is best known as the law that required equal access to athletics for male and female students in secondary schools and colleges. But ultimately, Title IX dramatically increased employment for women by increasing access not just to athletics but to college itself and subsequent job opportunities.

Just as the benefit of athletics stretched far beyond the playing field for men, Title IX proved that the same benefits held true in the case of women and girls. Women athletes are more likely to graduate from college than female students who don’t play sports. They are less likely to use drugs, get pregnant as teenagers, or become obese.

In fact, one rigorous study by Betsey Stevenson—now a member of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers—found that up to 40 percent of the overall rise in employment among women in the 25 to 34-year old age group since 1972 was attributable to Title IX. Girls and women who benefitted from Title IX had wages that were eight percent higher than their peers–and also were more likely to work in high-skill, previously male-dominated occupations.

As the President has said, equal pay is not just a women’s issue but a family issue. When the number of women in the workforce expands rapidly, their role as breadwinners expands rapidly too. And when women aren’t paid and treated fairly, their families suffer.

That’s one reason President Obama’s groundbreaking 2013 Preschool for All proposal is so important. It would enable states to provide an additional one million four-year-olds with high-quality preschool.

The benefits of high-quality early learning for young children are clear—and their mothers and families benefit as well. Child care expenses for families with working mothers range from 20 percent to nearly 50 percent of a working mom’s salary. Sadly, that steep price tag leads too many mothers to put off pursuing their own educational and career goals.

Our task is to make sure we are always working to narrow and eliminate unfair opportunity gaps. On June 23, President Obama is convening the first-ever White House Working Families Summit.

In the months beforehand, the Administration will build on the momentum of Equal Pay Day, and engage business leaders, advocates, policymakers, and educators to explore how we can better address issues affecting all working families—especially those pertaining to equity for women.

On equal pay, it’s time not just to talk the talk but to walk the walk. As a nation, we’re on that journey now. But we still have a long way to go to meet the gender-blind American ideal of equal opportunity and equal pay for equal work.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education

Four New Civil Rights Data Collection Snapshots

Last week, the Department of Education released the latest data from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). The CRDC is a vital resource that provides the public an opportunity to understand how our nation and individual states, districts, and schools serve all students, including our students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities. The troubling disparities revealed in this comprehensive, searchable database serve as a reminder of the importance of ensuring all students have equal access to educational opportunities.

Holder at Wilson Elementary

Attorney General Eric Holder talks with a student following the announcement of the latest CRDC collection at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

For the first time in more than a decade, the CRDC contains information on approximately 16,500 school districts, 97,000 schools, and 49 million students. The data shines a spotlight on educational equity in areas such as discipline, access to preschool, teacher equity, and access to college- and career-ready courses.

To coincide with the most recent data release, the Office for Civil Rights has created four new snapshots to help understand the data:

Data Snapshot: Early Childhood Education

Examples:

  • Public preschool access not yet a reality for much of the nation: About 40 percent of school districts do not offer preschool programs.
  • Black children make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment, but 48 percent of preschool children suspended more than once. Boys receive more than three out of four out-of-school preschool suspensions.

Data Snapshot: School Discipline, Restraint, & Seclusion Highlights

Examples:

  • Disproportionately high suspension/expulsion rates for students of color: Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. On average, 5 percent of white students are suspended, compared to 16 percent of black students. American Indian and Native-Alaskan students are also disproportionately suspended and expelled, representing less than 1 percent of the student population but 2 percent of out-of-school suspensions and 3 percent of expulsions.
  • Disproportionate suspensions of girls of color: While boys receive more than two out of three suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates (12 percent) than girls of any other race or ethnicity and most boys; American Indian and Native-Alaskan girls (7 percent) are suspended at higher rates than white boys (6 percent) or girls (2 percent).

Data Snapshot: College and Career Readiness

Examples:

  • Limited access to high-level math and science courses: Nationwide, only 50 percent of high schools offer calculus, and only 63 percent offer physics.
  • Significant lack of access to other core courses: Nationwide, between 10-25 percent of high schools do not offer more than one of the core courses in the typical sequence of high school math and science education — such as Algebra I and II, geometry, biology, and chemistry.

Data Snapshot: Teacher and Counselor Equity

Examples:

  • Teacher salary disparities: Nearly one in four districts with two or more high schools reports a teacher salary gap of more than $5,000 between high schools with the highest and the lowest black and Latino student enrollments.
  • Access to school counselors: Nationwide, one in five high schools lacks a school counselor.

Learn more about the 2011-12 CRDC collection at ocrdata.ed.gov.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education

Five New Facts from the Civil Rights Data Collection

Equity – the push to ensure strong educational opportunity for every student – drives everything we do at the U.S. Department of Education, and particularly in the Office for Civil Rights. From preschool enrollment to college attendance and completion, our office’s work is grounded in the belief that all students, regardless of race, gender, disability, or age, need a high-quality education to be successful.

Yet despite the gains we’ve made as a country, too many students are not receiving the education they deserve, and it is our collective duty to change that. Data is crucial to this work and helps us understand the extent of educational inequity throughout the U.S. and make informed decisions for action.

Since 1968, the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), formerly the Elementary and Secondary School Survey, has collected data on key education and civil rights issues in our nation’s public schools. Our office uses this data to focus our equity efforts and monitor the effectiveness of our programs. Earlier today we released new data from the 2011-12 collection, and for the first time since 2000, we collected data from every public school in the nation. This newest collection also includes data on preschool suspensions and expulsions for the first time as well.

Below are five striking new facts from the 2011-12 CRDC collection:

  • Access to preschool is not a reality for much of the country. About 40 percent of public school districts do not offer preschool, and where it is available, it is mostly part-day only. Of the school districts that operate public preschool programs, barely half are available to all students within the district.
  • Suspension of preschool children. Black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment but 42 percent of preschool students suspended once, and 48 percent of the preschool students suspended more than once.
  • Access to courses necessary for college is inequitably distributed. Eighty-one percent of Asian-American high school students and 71 percent of white high school students attend high schools where the full range of math and science courses are offered (Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics). However, fewer than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students have access to the full range of math and science courses in their high schools.  Black students (57 percent), Latino students (67 percent), students with disabilities (63 percent), and English learner students (65 percent) also have diminished access to the full range of courses.
  • Access to college counselors is uneven. Nationwide, one in five high schools lacks a school counselor.
  • Disparities in high school retention.  Twelve percent of black students are retained in grade nine – about double the rate that all students are retained (six percent).  Additionally, students with disabilities served by IDEA and English learners make up 12 percent and five percent of high school enrollment, respectively, but 19 percent and 11 percent of students held back or retained a year, respectively.

Learn more about the CRDC at ocrdata.ed.gov.

Catherine E. Lhamon is assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights.

Getting to Know Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon

As her teacher taught a lesson on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the struggle to advance civil rights, Catherine E. Lhamon’s then-four-year-old daughter proudly informed her class, “My mom does that!”

Lhamon has dedicated her life’s work to equity and justice. Appointed by President Obama, she is doing that as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

Lhamon and Vice President Biden

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon walks with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House.

“My own parents were active in civil rights and I attended law school knowing I wanted to make a difference,” said Lhamon, who earned her law degree at Yale after graduating summa cum laude from Amherst College.

Before joining the administration, Lhamon was one of California’s top civil rights lawyers. She worked at the nation’s largest pro bono law firm as Director of Impact Litigation at Public Counsel. She practiced for a decade at the ACLU of Southern California as well as served as a teaching fellow and supervising attorney in the Appellate Litigation Program at Georgetown University Law Center after clerking for The Honorable William A. Norris on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

A mother of two young girls, Lhamon moved with her husband and children after her confirmation last summer to continue the work she loves in our nation’s capital. And while Lhamon – who was named one of California’s top 20 lawyers under 40 – brings impressive credentials to her new role, her fresh perspective is vital too.

“After 17 years in the field, I’ve mostly been the one asking government to do more. Now I’ve joined government,” she said.

Lhamon has spent nearly two decades reaching out to and fighting for the civil rights community—resulting in thick skin and extensive knowledge. While she highlights these qualities as assets, above all else, Lhamon credits the tremendous team around her for assisting in a seamless transition and continued accomplishments under her leadership.

The Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which Lhamon heads, is a team of almost 600 people, in 12 regional offices, that she describes as “diverse, well-educated, and passionate.” Lhamon speaks fluently about the office’s ability to handle a wide range of discrimination violations, including novel cases requiring new and creative solutions. Among other cases, she cites a resolution ensuring equitable access to Advanced Placement courses for students of color and a resolution with a virtual charter school ensuring students with disabilities equitable access to their school’s website as evidence of OCR’s success. The Department’s first-ever guidance on the excessive and disproportionate use of out of school discipline was widely hailed as a vital step for the field.

Some 10,000 complaints a year are sent to OCR and Lhamon calls her predecessor’s review of these cases “breathtaking.” In recent years, OCR released guidance to ensure that students with disabilities have equal opportunity in extracurricular athletics; clarify full requirements of Title IX in regards to sexual harassment and violence; and encourage the voluntary use of race in the interest of achieving diversity in schools.

Lhamon knows there remains no shortage of civil rights violations occurring across the country today.  She recognizes the difficulties and urgency of the moment and seeks to head an office that “uses our time well and in the process gets a lot more justice for a lot more kids.”

For the remainder of the Obama administration, she will be fighting on behalf of those kids. Lhamon’s younger daughter sees her mom as quite simply: President Obama’s lawyer. She is also every student’s lawyer—a challenging job Lhamon is eager to tackle.

Dan Griffin is a confidential assistant at the U.S. Department of Education

A Renewed Call to Action to End Rape and Sexual Assault

President Barack Obama signs the Campus Sexual Assault Presidential Memorandum

President Barack Obama signs the Campus Sexual Assault Presidential Memorandum during a White House Council on Women and Girls meeting in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Additional Resources

As part of an unprecedented national effort to address alarming rates of sexual assault on college campuses, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum today to establish the “White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.” The taskforce will be charged with sharing best practices, and increasing transparency, enforcement, public awareness, and interagency coordination to prevent violence and support survivors. The creation of this Task Force builds upon the President’s 2010 call to action, which urged the federal government to support survivors and aggressively take action against sexual assault.

The statistics around sexual assault in this country are nothing short of jarring. A report just released by the White House Council on Women and Girls entitled, “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” reveals that nearly 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. These statistics are stunning, but still can’t begin to capture the emotional and psychological scars that survivors often carry for life, or the courage needed to recover.

President Barack Obama signs the Campus Sexual Assault Presidential Memorandum during a White House Council on Women and Girls meeting in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Ensuring Discipline that is Fair and Effective

Research shows that the use of suspensions has steadily climbed since the 1970s and that most suspensions today are for minor and non-violent incidents of misbehavior. These misbehaviors could be better addressed through measures that keep kids in school than by turning our kids away from the classroom door.  Further, federal data my office, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), collected for the 2011-12 school year indicates that students of color disproportionately bear the burden when schools use exclusion as punishment – they are disciplined more harshly and more frequently than other students, resulting in serious, negative educational consequences. For example, black students without disabilities represented 35 percent of students suspended once, 44 percent of those suspended more than once, and 36 percent of students expelled – but only 15 percent of students total in the OCR’s Civil Rights Data Collection. And over 50 percent of students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are black or Latino.

Holder and Duncan

Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder announced new school climate and discipline guidance today at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore.

Standing alone, disparate discipline rates like these do not necessarily indicate that a school or district is violating civil rights laws in every situation. Unfortunately, OCR investigations, which consider statistical data as part of a wide ranging examination of evidence, have revealed patterns of discrimination in certain cases.

Racial discrimination in school discipline is real, and it is a real problem. That’s why today, my office, OCR, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, released first-ever federal policy guidance aimed at addressing the problem of racial discriminatory discipline practices in elementary and secondary education. We sent our policy guidance, in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), to help schools and districts identify and remedy discriminatory discipline practices. The guidance explains federal non-discrimination requirements under Titles IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the legal approach the Departments will take when investigating complaints or compliance reviews alleging race or national origin discrimination in a school or district’s discipline practices.

The DCL also provides concrete examples to help schools and districts understand the potential civil rights violations that may arise when disciplining students. Importantly, the DCL provides a number of recommendations that schools and districts can implement to ensure that discipline is fair and effective. These recommendations align with a set of guiding principles the U.S. Department of Education developed and also released today.

I encourage all educators, from the classroom to state education agencies, to take time to review the discipline guidance and other resources released as part of the Department’s overall discipline package. I know that educators across the country are working to provide students with safe school environments where students can receive an excellent education. Teachers and principals make difficult, yet appropriate, decisions involving the use of school discipline each and every school day. And yet, in some of our schools and districts, the unfair and unnecessary use of suspensions and expulsions undermine this essential work. Students must be in school to be successful.

When schools exclude their students as punishment, then students not only miss valuable learning time but also too often lose a sense of belonging and engagement at school. This lesson in civic disengagement becomes further compounded when we send our students the message that they are being singled out or treated differently because of their race, ethnicity, or national origin.Exclusionary discipline practices place students at risk for experiencing a number of correlated educational, economic, and social problems, including school avoidance, increased likelihood of dropping out, and involvement with the juvenile justice system.

President Obama has challenged us to once again lead the world in college graduation rates.We cannot possibly hope to meet this challenge of preparing all students for college and career if we continually sideline some students with suspensions and expulsions rather than employing methods proven to work to teach kids responsibility for their actions and their learning, commitment to their peers in the educational process, and the value of school engagement. Let’s work together to support schools, to remove barriers to educational opportunity, and to ensure students’ safe passage through the critical and formative stages of their educational experience.

Catherine Lhamon is assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights.  

Visit www.ed.gov/school-discipline for more information.

U.S. Department of Education Releases Estimated State and National Figures from 2009-10 Civil Rights Data Collection

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) collects data from public schools to help detect and prevent civil rights violations. The data collected and released by the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) can serve as an important tool for schools and districts to engage in self-analysis. The data reveals where schools and districts are lagging and where they making great progress and leading the nation in closing the opportunity gap. With this information, the public can find and learn from schools and districts defying myths about achievement and opportunity.

Today, OCR is releasing new information — based on a sample collection of school- and district-level data from the 2009-10 school year — to estimate what the results might have been at the state and national level if every public school had been surveyed.

These data files have been posted online in an effort to shine a spotlight on urgent educational concerns, while at the same time revealing where schools and districts are making great progress and leading the nation in closing the opportunity gap. However, the quality of the CRDC data ultimately depends on accurate collection and reporting by the participating districts. Each district, through its superintendent or the superintendent’s designee, is required to certify the accuracy of its submission to OCR. The technical notes posted today provide some caveats and considerations that users should take into account when using the state and national estimations, particularly for items collected for the first time in the 2009-10 school year. 

The 2009-10 data collection surveyed a sample of about 7,000 public school districts and more than 72,000 public schools, representing about 85 percent of the country’s public school students. In March 2012, OCR released to the public the school- and district-level data from the CRDC and a document analyzing some of the 2009-10 sample data. In order to deepen the understanding of students’ educational opportunities, the 2009-10 CRDC collected data for the first time on whether students have access to the critical, rigorous courses needed for success in postsecondary education or training. It also collected new data on:

  • Student retention
  • Participation in SAT and ACT tests
  • Discipline (including data on students with and without disabilities, data on in-school and out-of-school suspensions, referrals to law enforcement agencies, and school-related arrests)
  • Harassment and bullying
  • Restraint and seclusion
  • Teacher experience and attendance
  • School finance

In looking ahead to future collections, OCR continues to refine technical assistance to help districts provide data that are accurate and sufficient for meaningful analysis. The collection of data for the 2011-12 school year (which collected data from every public school, not just a sample like in 2009-10) is complete and we expect to release that data in the first quarter of 2014. And plans are underway for collecting data from the 2013-14 school year starting in the fall of 2014.

Rebecca Fitch is the Project Manager for the Civil Rights Data Collection at the U.S. Department of Education

Celebrating Education’s Place in Civil Rights

Fifty years after the March on Washington, President Barack Obama and dozens of other dignitaries paid tribute on Wednesday to Martin Luther King Jr., and those who participated in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it does not bend on its own,” Obama said in an echo of King’s words. “To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency.”

From the beginning of his term, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has maintained that education is the civil rights issue of our time, and several speakers during the celebration echoed this sentiment, including President Obama who described those who marched five decades ago:

And because they kept marching, America changed. Because they marched, the civil rights law was passed. Because they marched, the voting rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes.

President Obama speakingOn the courage to work together:

We can stand together for good jobs and just wages. With that courage, we can stand together for the right to health care in the richest nation on earth for every person. With that courage, we can stand together for the right of every child, from the corners of Anacostia to the hills of Appalachia, to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit and prepares them for the world that awaits them. With that courage, we can feed the hungry and house the homeless and transform bleak wastelands of poverty into fields of commerce and promise.

America, I know the road will be long, but I know we can get there. Yes, we will stumble, but I know we’ll get back up. That’s how a movement happens. That’s how history bends. That’s how, when somebody is faint of heart, somebody else brings them along and says, come on, we’re marching.

President Bill Clinton noted that there is still work to be done to realize King’s Dream:

We cannot be disheartened by the forces of resistance to building a modern economy of good jobs and rising incomes or to rebuilding our education system to give our children a common core of knowledge necessary to ensure success or to give Americans of all ages access to affordable college and training programs. And we thank the president for his efforts in those regards.

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus:

Dr. King advocated for an America where everyone would be afforded their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; a nation where there would be equal protection under the law; and a country where every person’s right to vote is protected. He dreamed of an America where every child has access to quality schools and an education that prepares them for their future. And he dreamed that we, as a nation, would walk together on the swift path towards justice.

Following his speech, President Obama spoke with Gwen Ifill on PBS NewsHour and said that he would continue to move forward on his economic agenda — including early childhood education — as a way forward in the struggle for equal rights.  “I want to get early childhood education done because we know that’s the single most important thing we can do to increase upward mobility and opportunity for disadvantaged kids,” he said.  “And, if Congress isn’t willing to pass a law, then I’ll start meeting with mayors, and we’ll start meeting with governors, and we’ll start meeting with non-for-profits and philanthropies.”

Earlier in the week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed students and civil rights leaders at the School Without Walls in Washington, D.C., and to students nationwide via live stream. He discussed education as the “civil rights issue of our time” and the progress the country has made toward providing all students an opportunity to succeed through high-quality education.

Read his speech or watch the video.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education

Observing National Day of Silence

Today GLSEN hosts its national Day of Silence-a day where students throughout the country take a vow of silence to call attention to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. I want to encourage all of us NOT to be silent on an important issue: the need to address and eliminate bullying and harassment in our schools.

No student should ever feel unsafe in school. If students don’t feel safe, they can’t learn. And if left unaddressed, bullying and harassment can rapidly escalate into even more serious abuse.

I want to remind students, parents, and administrators of the power of supportive clubs, like the Gay Straight Alliances or GSAs, to foster safe school environments. The Department of Education has provided guidance to schools on their obligations under federal laws to provide equal access to extracurricular clubs, including GSAs, as well to address bullying and harassment and gender-based violence.

Let’s work together to end bullying and harassment in schools.

Please visit StopBullying.gov and find additional resources from the Department of Education below–including school obligations under federal law:

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education