Holder and Duncan unveiled the national guidelines on school discipline on January 8 at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, Maryland.
“The need to rethink and redesign school discipline practices is frankly long overdue,” claimed Duncan, advancing the theory that racial discrimination pervades present school discipline and is a “real problem today.”
"A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal's office, not in a police precinct," said Holder.
According to the attorney general, the problem arises from “zero tolerance” policies that too often involve the criminal justice system.
The Associated Press summarized,
Zero tolerance policies, a tool that became popular in the 1990s, often spell out uniform and swift punishment for offenses such as truancy, smoking or carrying a weapon. Violators can lose classroom time or become saddled with a criminal record.
Holder asserted that schools should find more constructive ways to address behavioral problems — evidently, even ones that would qualify as criminal.
“Too often, so-called zero-tolerance policies, however well intentioned they might be, make students feel unwelcome in their own schools; they disrupt the learning process,” Holder continued. “And they can have significant and lasting negative effects on the long-term well-being of our young people, increasing their likelihood of future contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems.”
Approximately two million students are suspended or expelled from secondary schools each year.
“That’s a staggering amount of lost learning time and lost opportunity to provide more meaningful support,” said Duncan.
Many of the suspensions are for nonviolent offenses such as disruption, disrespect, tardiness, and dress code violations.
Duncan asserted, “These are all issues that must be dealt with clearly, effectively and with a sense of urgency when they arise, but I must ask: Is putting children out of school the best solution, the best remedy, for those problems?”
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Photo: Attorney General Eric Holder (left) and Education Secretary Arne Duncan (right)