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Betsy DeVos Revokes Obama Discipline Guidance Designed to Protect Students of Color

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has rescinded guidance created by the Obama administration to ensure that students of color and students with disabilities aren’t disciplined more harshly than their peers.

“Every student has the right to attend school free from discrimination. They also have the right to be respected as individuals and not treated as statistics. In too many instances, though, I’ve heard from teachers and advocates that the previous administration’s discipline guidance often led to school environments where discipline decisions were based on a student’s race and where statistics became more important than the safety of students and teachers,” DeVos said in a statement Friday announcing her decision, which was made in conjunction with the Department of Justice. “Our decision to rescind that guidance today makes it clear that discipline is a matter on which classroom teachers and local school leaders deserve and need autonomy. I would encourage them to continue to implement discipline reforms that they believe will foster improved outcomes for their students.”

The 2014 guidance was jointly issued by the Obama-era Education and Justice Departments. A nonbinding document, the guidance suggested that schools could run afoul of civil rights laws if they disciplined students of color at higher rates than other students. Perhaps its most controversial element was its assertion that schools’ discipline policies could violate those laws if they had a “disparate impact” on disciplinary actions for different groups of students, even if the policies were written without discriminatory intent.