On Jan. 8, the administration issued guidelines recommending law enforcement be used as a tool of last resort. In a letter to school officials, the administration asserted the use of "zero tolerance" policies has affected students of certain racial and ethnic groups more than their peers and that an increasing number of students have lost instructional time due to harsh disciplinary actions.
"As a result, this guidance is critically needed to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to learn and grow in school," the guidance letter stated. "Additionally, fair and equitable discipline policies are an important component of creating an environment where all students feel safe and welcome."
The New York Times reports charges against children have increased drastically as "zero tolerance" policies have taken hold in schools, causing alarm for civil rights groups.
"The move by the Education and Justice departments comes after years of complaints from civil rights groups and others who say the policies are ineffective and take an unfair toll on minorities. The zero tolerance approach has been blamed for boosting the number of suspensions and expulsions and for equating minor infractions with criminal acts," an NPR article stated.
In remarks made during the school guidance rollout, Attorney General Eric Holder said, "Effective discipline is, and always will be, a necessity. But a routine school discipline infraction should land a student in a principal’s office – not in a police precinct."
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