RALEIGH — North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has signed onto a letter along with 22 other state attorneys general to urge the Biden administration to reinstate an Obama-era school discipline policy. Stein is calling for “fairer treatment of students.”
“When we treat students unfairly based on their race, sexual orientation, or any other factor, we harm them in ways that reverberate long after they leave school,” Stein said in a press release. “We cannot fail our children like this — I urge the federal government to put in place the protections we need to make sure our young people are treated fairly.”
The letter is signed only by Democratic attorney generals from 23 states including North Carolina. The other states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
The letter follows moves by districts across the country and in North Carolina to remove or restrict School Resource Officers on K-12 campuses, in moves sometimes tied to “Defund the Police” campaigns.
President Barack Obama had issued an executive order in late July of 2012 supporting race-based discipline policies. His order sought to regulate schools’ disciplinary actions so that minority students, mainly black students, would be disciplined at equal rates as other groups regardless of an individual’s behavior.
In 2014, the Obama administration, through the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, sent guidance to the states citing a “school-to-prison pipeline” and urging states to reduce suspensions of minority students.
The 2014 guidance cited federal law prohibiting the use of school discipline that intentionally discriminates based on a student’s race, color or national origin. The guidance was rolled back under the Trump administration.
Stein’s release referred to data from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) 2015-2016 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) and the National Bureau of Economic Research showing higher suspension and expulsion rates for black students.
- Black male students represented 8% of enrolled students yet accounted for 25% of students who received an out-of-school suspension.
- Black female students represented 8% of students enrolled and 14% of out-of-school suspensions.
- Expulsion rates for all black students accounted for 33% of all expulsions despite accounting for a total of 16% of students enrolled.
- Attending a school with an above average use of suspension increases a student’s future chances of being incarcerated by 17%. If the student is minority, the chance of incarceration increases by an additional 3.1%.
As in the past under the Obama Administration, no analysis of the OCR and CRDC case data for suspensions or expulsions was included. Such information would help ascertain if the disciplinary actions were warranted, what the offenses entailed or if there were repeat offenders.