White House Report: The Continuing Need To Rethink Discipline

Archived Information

White House Report: The Continuing Need To Rethink Discipline

December 9, 2016

Washington, DC — Today, the White House released a new capstone report with updates about projects launched and local progress made in response to the Administration's Rethink Discipline efforts. Rethink Discipline was launched as part of President Barack Obama's My Brothers' Keeper initiative and aims to support all students and promote a welcome and safe climate in schools. The full report is available here.

The White House will also convene stakeholders and leaders to discuss the progress made and the work ahead to encourage and support local leaders as they work to implement supportive school discipline practices. Today's meeting in the Roosevelt Room will include remarks by Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the My Brother's Keeper Task Force Broderick Johnson, Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz and Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.

As noted in a joint Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services Policy Statement, suspension and expulsion can contribute to a number of adverse outcomes for childhood development in areas such as personal health, interactions with the criminal justice system, and education.

The 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) reveals that out-of-school suspensions decreased by nearly 20 percent compared to the 2011-12 school year. However, 2.8 million students received out-of-school suspensions in the 2013-14 school year, representing approximately 6 percent of all students enrolled in elementary and secondary schools.

The application of exclusionary discipline practices is especially significant for students of color and students with disabilities, who, in general, are disciplined more often than their classmates. As stated in the Department of Education's First Look brief about 2013-14 CRDC data, in preschool, black children are 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than white children. In K-12, black students are 3.8 times more likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions compared to white students. Students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions as students without disabilities.

Addressing these disparities and rethinking discipline have remained top priorities of the Administration, which has focused attention on the importance of school disciplinary approaches that foster safe, supportive, and productive learning environments in which students can thrive.

Announcements made as part of this comprehensive effort include:

  • Supportive School Discipline Initiative: In 2011, the Departments of Education and Justice announced the launch of a collaborative project to support the use of school discipline practices that foster safe, supportive, and productive learning environments while keeping students in school. A cornerstone of this Initiative is the School Discipline Consensus Project, managed by the Council of State Governments and supported by various philanthropic organizations. The Consensus Project brought together practitioners from various fields to develop consensus recommendations to dismantle the "school-to-prison pipeline."

  • Joint Federal Policy and Legal Guidance: Education and Justice jointly released a School Climate and Discipline Guidance Package in 2014 to provide schools with a roadmap to reduce the usage of exclusionary discipline practices and clarify schools' civil rights obligation to not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin in the administration of school discipline.

  • #RethinkDiscipline Convening and Public Awareness Campaign: The Departments of Education and Justice launched Rethink Discipline at the White House in July 2015, convening school district teams, including superintendents, some law enforcement practitioners, and justice officials from across the country, and sparking a national dialogue around punitive school discipline policies and practices that exclude students from classroom instruction and targeted supports.

  • Rethink School Discipline—Resource Guide for Superintendent Action: As a part of Rethink Discipline, the Department of Education developed a resource guide with a set of potential action items to help school leaders implement safe, supportive school climate and discipline by engaging stakeholders, assessing the results and history of existing school climate and discipline systems and practices; implementing reform; and monitoring progress.

  • Support for State and Local Educational Leaders and Partners from Other Systems: In 2015, the Department of Justice launched the National Resource Center for School Justice Partnerships to advance school discipline reform efforts and serve as a dynamic resource hub for schools, law-enforcement agencies, and others to support school discipline reform efforts at the local level.

  • Fostering Safe and Supportive Learning Environments: In 2016, the Department of Education released the ED School Climate Surveys and the Quick Guide on Making School Climate Improvements to help foster and sustain safe and more nurturing environments that are conducive to learning for all students.

  • Addressing Implicit Bias and Discipline Disparities in Early Childhood Settings: In 2016, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services announced a new investment of $1 million in the Pyramid Equity Project to establish national models for addressing issues of implicit bias and uneven implementation of discipline, including expulsions and suspensions, in early learning programs.

  • Providing Guidance to Schools on Ensuring Equity and Providing Behavioral Supports to Students with Disabilities: In 2016, the Department of Education announced the release of a significant guidance document in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter, which emphasized the requirement that schools provide positive behavioral supports to students with disabilities who need them. It also clarified that the repeated use of disciplinary actions may suggest that many children with disabilities may not be receiving appropriate behavioral interventions and supports. Also included was a Summary for Stakeholders.

  • Transforming School Climate: In the 2016 Investing in Innovation Program, the Department of Education supports innovative approaches to creating a supportive school climate. This priority builds on the #RethinkDiscipline campaign to increase awareness about the detrimental impacts of exclusionary discipline, the Department's investment in School Climate Transformation Grants to help states and districts strengthen behavioral supports for students, and a school discipline guidance package to clarify schools' obligation not to discriminate on the basis of race in discipline.

  • Best Practices and Procedures for School Resource Officers: In September 2016, U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released new tools to assist states, districts and schools in the implementation of best practices for the appropriate use of school resource officers (SROs). The release is the result of collaborative work between both Departments to define the best use of law-enforcement officers when utilized within a school environment. The Departments also jointly released the Safe, School-based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect (SECURe) Rubrics. These resources are designed to help education and law-enforcement agencies that use SROs to review and, if necessary, revise SRO-related policies in alignment with common-sense action steps that can lead to improved school safety and better outcomes for students while safeguarding their civil rights.

  • Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools: Last month, the Department of Education sent a letter urging state leaders to end the use of corporal punishment in schools, a practice repeatedly linked to harmful short-term and long-term outcomes for students. The letter from Secretary King was sent to governors and chief state school officers, and provided links to resources that can be promoted by those state leaders and adopted by district and school leaders.