The past two years have seen considerable attention, on both the federal and state level, on the issue of student discipline. Specifically, the disparate impact student suspensions and expulsions have on students of color. In January 2014, the Departments of Justice and Education jointly released a “School Discipline Guidance Package” to provide to schools and school administrators guidance when it comes to the suspending and expelling of students, particularly minority students.
This focus took on an international flavor recently as a panel of experts convened by the United Nations released a report with recommendations for U.S. school discipline. This panel, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, visited various U.S. cities hearing testimony from experts and advocacy groups about equity concerns in education as well as other areas.
The final report, which included a number of recommendations, is a response to what the report described as “the cumulative impact of racially motivated discrimination faced by African Americans.” The report’s recommendations include:
- policing in schools should be abolished;
- use of restraint and seclusion should be prohibited;
- the Department of Education should study zero tolerance policies and its disparate impact on African American students;
- Positive Behavior Intervention and Support and restorative practices in school discipline should be used for reducing disciplinary incidents;
- school curriculum in each state should reflect appropriately the history of the slave trade.
This report from the U.N. group is an additional voice in the ongoing discussion concerning race and student discipline in U.S. schools. While the report is not binding, it would not be surprising to see this report referenced as federal and state governments continue to examine the impact of student discipline, particularly exclusionary discipline, on the school experience and achievement of students of color.