New GAO report shows students of color suffer harsher discipline for lesser offenses

April 17, 2018 Staff Writer

Congressmen Bobby Scott, ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Jerrold Nadler, ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, have released the Government Accountability Office report “Discipline Disparities for Black Students, Boys, and Students with Disabilities.”

Both Congressmen requested that the GAO investigate disparities in discipline policies and practices applied to students of color, boys and students with disabilities.

“The Government Accountability Office has conducted first-of-its-kind analysis of national data which dispels claims that racially disproportionate rates of discipline are based solely on income. The analysis shows that students of color suffer harsher discipline for lesser offenses than their white peers and that racial bias is a driver of discipline disparities,” Scott said. “This report underscores the need to combat these gross disparities by strengthening, not rescinding, the 2014 Discipline Guidance Package, which recommends specific strategies to reduce the disparities without jeopardizing school safety.”

Black students, boys and students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined in K-12 public schools. This pattern of disproportionate discipline persists regardless of the type of disciplinary action, level of school poverty, or type of public school students attend.

“After an extensive analysis by the Government Accountability Office, there can be no ignoring the facts of racial biases – facts that the Trump administration must face head-on and cannot refute,” Nadler said. “The GAO report shows that race plays a significant role in discipline disparities, with students of color suffering harsher punishment in school compared with their peers.

“To suggest otherwise would require ignoring the major factor in these disparities, and ignorance of the facts can be no excuse for failing these students. Ignoring the impact of race on school discipline would be unconscionable and fail to address a critical issue impacting school performance by students of color.”

Nadler said Congressman Scott should be thanked for his dedication to this issue.

“I hope the administration will finally come to grips with the realities faced by students of color,” he said. “Secretary DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education must ensure that the necessary resources and guidelines are in place to address these disturbing racial disparities in our schools, and I hope this report will provide the necessary urgency for quick action on this matter.”

In 2014, the USDOE and the Department of Justice issued a School Discipline Guidance Package, to remind schools of their legal obligations to administer school discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin. Based on the empirical evidence provided in this GAO report, it is critically important the guidance be strengthened, and not rescinded, as some have suggested.

The GAO report can be accessed at

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