DSC Urges Acting Secretary of Education Dr. John King to Champion School Discipline Reform Upon Confirmation
Today, Acting Secretary of Education, Dr. John King, will appear before the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, seeking confirmation as Secretary of Education. If confirmed, King will be responsible for carrying out the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015, replacing the broken No Child Left Behind Act. DSC urges Dr. King to ensure that the Department issues regulations and provides needed guidance and technical assistance to states and districts to properly implement the law. In particular, as a coalition of civil rights, education, parent, student, LGTBTQ, and disability rights organizations committed to reforming overly punitive discipline practices that contribute to the School-to-Prison Pipeline, DSC urges Dr.King to act to assist states and districts in implementing the law’s provisions aimed at reforming discipline practices and promoting positive and inclusive school climates.
For the first time, ESSA delegates significant implementation tasks to states, and support from the Department will be critical to ensuring that states have the needed information and clarity to effectuate the law’s purpose of promoting student success. In particular, DSC urges Dr. King and the Department to provide guidance, technical assistance, and clarity through regulations to help states implement the law. Specifically, we urge assistance on the provisions related to: school climate and safety as an indicator of overall school quality and student success; parent and family engagement; implementation of alternative discipline programs; state and LEA plan reporting on discipline; and the re-integration of system-involved students back into schools upon release. Additional support and clarification will also be need to ensure that states that implement discipline reform programs know how to best measure improvements in school climate.
We also urge Dr. King to address the role of police in schools and how police presence contributes to the School-to-Prison Pipeline. We look forward to partnering with Dr. King and the Department to help promote alternatives to police in schools. Such alternatives are detailed in recommendations from our in 2013, You Can’t Build Peace with a Piece campaign and the accompanying Statement by Youth of Color on School Safety and Gun Violence.
Finally, we urge Dr. King and the Department to act in partnership with community stakeholders to promote positive and inclusive school climates through the implementation of ESSA and support for discipline alternatives, like positive behavioral interventions and supports. We believe that all students should be able to learn in schools where parents, caregivers, and community stakeholders are involved in decision-making; where they feel safe and not stigmatized by discipline policies and practices; and where educators and administrators have the ongoing supports and services needed to successfully manage classrooms and foster student learning and success. We look forward to continuing to work with Dr. King, the Department, states, and LEAs to ensure that all students can truly succeed.