MEDIA CONTACT: Beth Yohe,
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 20, 2018
The Conflict Center is deeply concerned by the Federal Commission on School Safety’s recommendation to repeal 2014 federal guidance intended to reduce racial discrimination in suspensions and expulsions as well as language promoting traditional, punitive discipline approaches. The Conflict Center also opposes the Commission’s support of state and local efforts to put guns into schools and arm additional school personnel. Separately, and in combination, these recommendations will not improve school safety.
The recommendation to repeal 2014 federal guidelines ignores established and growing body of research demonstrating that being suspended, expelled or arrested at school is associated with higher dropout rates, increased involvement with the criminal justice system (often referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline) and can have negative life-altering consequences. This recommendation also ignores scientific evidence that students of color are disproportionately impacted by punitive discipline. The 2014 guidance, along with similar state and local efforts, have played a critical role in ensuring all students have access to educational opportunity as well as encouraging schools to examine and address underlying factors for student behavior.
The Conflict Center is firmly committed to our belief that any school discipline policy should take into consideration cultural competency and implicit bias and that actions such as expulsions and suspensions should be a last resort during the disciplinary process in schools. We do, however, appreciate the Commission’s continued promotion of resources toward social-emotional learning and understand best practice in social-emotional learning efforts includes discipline policies grounded in restorative practices.
In addition, The Conflict Center believes that the presence of guns in schools is antithetical to school safety. School safety includes not only physical safety but psychological and interpersonal safety as well. Further, the presence of guns in schools creates psychological distress and can contribute to trauma for students and staff.
Many Colorado districts and schools have implemented policies and practices which address very real racial disparities in discipline, embrace restorative alternatives to suspension and expulsions and utilize trauma-informed practices. For the safety of all students, we urge Colorado schools and school districts to continue these practices.