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Recent federal guidance on school discipline reform24 has helped to shift the focus from a
decades-long documentation of discipline disparities and the overuse of exclusionary discipline to
one of action steps and solutions to begin correcting the problems. In January 2014, the U.S.
Department of Education (USDOE) and the Department of Justice (USDOJ) issued joint
guidelines for addressing school discipline in a prevention-oriented way rather than by a traditional
reliance on exclusionary discipline.25 This first-ever federal guidance related to school discipline
not only detailed the federal law prohibiting school districts from discriminating in the
administration of school discipline,26 but it also included a comprehensive package providing
resources and information aimed at improving school climate and reducing the use of exclusionary
school discipline.27 Soon afterward, President Obama formed the “My Brother’s Keeper”
Initiative, a task force whose mission and goals are to address disparities, including discipline
disparities, and promote educational access and life opportunities among young men of color, the
current results of which are chronicled in progress reports.28
Also in 2014, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, in collaboration with the
USDOE and USDOJ, released a report featuring strategies for keeping students engaged in school
and out of the juvenile justice system. The “School Discipline Consensus Report” was the
culmination of an 18-month consensus-building initiative involving key stakeholders and experts
in juvenile justice and education reform.29 This report provides a comprehensive set of
recommendations and practical guidance to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline and arrest in
response to student behaviors at school.30 One of the report’s recommendations is for school
districts to incorporate prevention-oriented practices into their written school discipline policy,
typically termed the “code of conduct,” with a focus on enhancing school climate and keeping
students in school.31 In addition, the report’s authors suggest that state laws be modified, if
necessary, to provide a framework for school districts to develop effective prevention-driven codes
supra note 17 (research report providing policy recommendations); MORGAN ET AL., supra note 19 (research report
by the Council of State Governments Justice Center outlining alternatives to current school discipline practices based
on consultations with numerous stakeholders, including educators and juvenile justice professionals); OFFICE OF THE
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, ECONOMIC COSTS OF YOUTH DISADVANTAGED AND HIGH-RETURN
OPPORTUNITIES FOR CHANGE (2015) (federal report documenting barriers to success faced by disadvantaged youth
and identifying key intervention points). See also infra note 33.
24 U.S. Dep’t of Justice & U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Dear Colleague Letter on the Nondiscriminatory Administration of
School Discipline (Jan. 8, 2014) [hereinafter U.S. Dep’t of Justice & U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Dear Colleague Letter];
U.S. DEP’T OF EDUC., GUIDING PRINCIPLES, supra note 8.
25 Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Educ. & U.S. Dep’t of Justice, U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Release
School Discipline Guidance Package to Enhance School Climate and Improve School Discipline Policies/Practices
(Jan. 8, 2014), http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-departments-education-and-justice-release-school-discipline-guidance-package-enhance-school-climate-and-improve-school-discipline-policiespractices.
26 U.S. Dep’t of Justice & U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Dear Colleague Letter, supra note 24.
27 U.S. DEP’T OF EDUC., GUIDING PRINCIPLES, supra note 8.
28 See MY BROTHER’S KEEPER’S TASK FORCE, ONE YEAR PROGRESS REPORT TO THE PRESIDENT (Feb. 27, 2015)
(documenting commitments by federal agencies, private sector institutions, and localities across the country to support
the implementation of “cradle-to-career action plans” designed to improve the life outcomes for young people,
especially boys and men of color).