Gov’t: End Overly Zealous, Racially Discriminatory Discipline in Schools

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—Draw clear distinctions about the responsibilities of school security personnel.

—Provide opportunities for school security officers to develop relationships with students and parents.

The government advises schools to establish procedures on how to distinguish between disciplinary infractions appropriately handled by school officials compared with major threats to school safety. And, it encourages schools to collect and monitor data that security or police officers take to ensure nondiscrimination.

The recommendations are nonbinding.

Already, in March of last year, the Justice Department spearheaded a settlement with the Meridian, Miss., school district to end discriminatory disciplinary practices. The black students in the district were facing harsher punishment than whites for similar misbehavior.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has acknowledged the challenge is finding the balancing act to keep school safe and orderly. But, he said that, “we need to keep students in class where they can learn.”

Research suggests the racial disparities in how students are disciplined are not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color, according to a letter sent to schools with the recommendations by the departments.

“For example, 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 letter said. “In short, racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem.”

(AP Photo: In this July 16, 2010 file photo, Attorney General Eric Holder takes part in news conference in Miami. )

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