Rollback has potential to re-enforce school-to-prison pipeline

It took 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the federal government to produce guidance that clarifies how the law should protect students of color from the racial discrimination they too often face when it comes to school discipline.

Now, the guidelines may be on the brink of elimination.

Education department officials met with parents and teachers who are pushing to discard the rules, arguing that they make schools less safe and hamper the ability for teachers to discipline students. And last month, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights participated in a hearing to discern whether laws designed to protect students of color with disabilities from discriminatory discipline are working.

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Based on some recent DOE decisions, civil rights activists fear that the Trump administration is gearing up to kill the guidelines, worsening the damage to black and brown children caused by unfair discipline. 

The decision would fall in line with other administration actions that have slowly chipped away at the rights and securities of students. 

In October, the DOE rescinded documents that spelled out rights for students with disabilities. The department also dropped some protections for transgender students and rescinded previous guidance for schools on handling sexual misconduct and violence.

Biases from educators have an immediate impact. Black students are expelled, suspended and thrown in juvenile detention more frequently than their white counterparts for the same behaviors.

But even worse are the long-term effects: Excessive discipline against black children causes some to be held back in school and others to drop out and contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline. Students of color who are forced to repeat a grade or who drop out altogether have an increased likelihood of ending up in prison

In 2014, the U.S. departments of Education and Justice called for school districts to ensure that discipline policies didn’t have a disproportionate impact on or discriminate against certain ethnic and racial groups as well as students with disabilities.

Federal guidance plays a…