Gov’t: Most school discipline need not mean court
FILE - In this July 16, 2010 file photo, Attorney General Eric Holder takes part in news conference in Miami. The Obama administration is issuing new recommendations Wednesday Jan. 8, 2014 on classroom discipline that seek to end the apparent disparities in how students of different races are punished for violating school rules. Holder said the problem often stems from well intentioned "zero-tolerance" policies that too often inject the criminal justice system into the resolution of problems. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)
The Obama administration yesterday pressed the nation’s schools to abandon what it described as overly zealous discipline policies that send students to court instead of the principal’s office. Even before the announcement, school districts across the country have been taking action to adjust the policies that disproportionately affect minority students.
Attorney General Eric Holder said problems often stem from well-intentioned “zero-tolerance” policies that can inject the criminal justice system into school matters.
But it’s about race, too, the government said in a letter accompanying the new guidelines it issued yesterday.
“In our investigations, we have found cases where African-American students were disciplined more harshly and more frequently because of their race than similarly situated white students,” the Justice Department and Education Department said in the letter to school districts.
The guidelines are not the first administration action regarding tough-on-crime laws or policies of the 1980s and ’90s that have lost support more broadly since then. Holder announced last summer that he was instructing federal prosecutors to stop charging nonviolent drug offenders with crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences, a change affecting crack cocaine sentences that have disproportionately affected minorities. And just before Christmas, President Obama commuted the sentences of eight people serving long drug sentences.