School Discipline and Students’ Civil Rights


The October 13 edition of Education Week reports that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is changing its focus in investigating racial disparities in school discipline.  A U.S. official who attended an ED conference last month is quoted as saying “students of color are receiving different and harsher disciplinary punishments than whites for the same or similar infractions and they are disproportionately impacted by zero-tolerance policies.” For example, a study published last month by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that in 2006 28.3 percent of African American males and 16.3 percent of Hispanic males in the nation’s middle schools were suspended compared to 10 percent  of white males. Some experts believe that suspension is a key indicator that a student will drop out of school.  In an effort to improve these types of outcomes, federal officials who enforce civil rights laws in schools will look at “disparate impact” rather than only looking for evidence of “different treatment,” the approach that has reportedly been used most often over the past decade. With “different treatment,” officials look for evidence of intentional discrimination against a particular group. With “disparate impact,” officials will also seek to determine whether a particular group is being disproportionately affected without necessarily finding an intention to discriminate.  According to ED Secretary Arne Duncan, new civil rights compliance reviews have recently been initiated in one school district each in Delaware, New York, North Carolina, Utah and Minnesota. The reviews will include both different-treatment and different-impact analyses.

With Behavior Plus™, PCG Education offers school districts an electronic tool to document and monitor student behavior problems and implement appropriate interventions to help avoid harsh disciplinary actions such as suspension and expulsion.


About Patsy Crawford

Patsy Crawford, Director of Legal Services, PCG Education, has over 30 years of legal experience and is responsible for providing legal and regulatory compliance support to the PCG Education management team. Since joining the firm in 1997, Patsy has worked closely with school district administrators and PCG Education managers and consultants to coordinate with state and federal Medicaid agencies to protect and improve billing programs for school districts. She has provided direct legal support to PCG Education projects in multiple states across the country.

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