While we weren’t looking
On December 21st 2018, the Acting US Attorney General withdrew the Dear Colleague Letter on Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline, the Overview of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative and supporting documents. Collectively these documents have served as the backbone of a framework implemented to address the administration of nondiscriminatory discipline in schools and stop the school to prison pipeline. These statements of policy and guidance were implemented by the previous administration because of the absence of any other suitable tool as a result of an obstructionist congress, unwilling to pass the appropriate laws.
The decision to withdraw this guidance was hidden in the noise of the Friday afternoon of the most tumultuous week of this presidency. It is being sold to us in the false narrative that the previous guidance impinged upon schools discretion in discipline and that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is an adequate remedy for discriminatory discipline in schools. Neither is true. Removing this guidance is a heinous atrocity, which will cause traumatic and irreparable damage to our children and our nation.
The Struggle Home
We, in Vermont have struggled tirelessly to address discriminatory discipline, harassment and bullying in our schools. The Vermont Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil rights reported discovering in 1997 racial harassment “pervasive … [and] not a priority among school administrators, school boards, elected officials…” An update, six years later reported “problems cited in its 1999 Report persist…” and a recent 2015, Vermont Legal Aid reported that “Black/African-American and Native American Students Were Two to Three Times More Likely than White Students to be Suspended.”
We ask the legislature, the Attorney General and the Human Rights Commission in consultation with the Department of Children and Families and the Secretary of Education to immediately develop and implement policy that will ensure inclusiveness in standards, fairness in discipline and diversity in admissions. Address this with the urgency and commitment you showed in response to the immigration crisis in 2017. Do this because it is the right thing to do.
Founder, Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools
Co-founder Community Council Accountable with Law Enforcement Officials
Vermonters For Justice in Palestine,
Executive Director, Justice For All
Tabitha Pohl-Moore President,
Rutland Area Branch of the NAACP
Steffen Glenn Gillom
President, Windham County Branch of the NAACP
Former State Representative
Co-Coordinator, I am Vermont Too
Chief of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe
Vermont Human Rights Advocate