Trump’s post-Parkland panel recommends ending Obama-era school discipline policies

Posted at 6:21 AM, Dec 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-18 11:22:41-05

The Department of Education is poised to rescind Obama-era policies that sought to ensure minority students are not unfairly disciplined in schools, an effort the Trump administration believes will alleviate school-related violence.

The policy recommendation comes from the Federal School Safety Commission’s report released Tuesday. The commission, convened by the White House in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting earlier this year, aimed to evaluate and provide recommendations about how to keep students safe in school.

Because the commission was convened in the aftermath of school shootings, many anticipated a focus on guns, but the commission’s report took a look at several policies from mental health issues to the impact of violent entertainment on children’s development, according to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The report urges partnerships between schools, districts, states and law enforcement for the training and arming of school personnel. Although senior White House officials stressed that the report does not make the recommendation to arm teachers, it says that highly trained school personnel that have access to guns would be beneficial to school safety.

The report in “no way” recommends that federal funds be used to train school personnel, officials said.

DeVos chairs the commission, which includes the Justice Department, Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security.

Senior White House administration officials confirmed that the report recommends rescinding Obama-era policies designed to protect minority students from unfair discrimination as one of the policy recommendations in the commission’s 19 chapter report. The New York Times earlier reported the policy shift.

Senior White House administration officials said that the commission heard a “recurring narrative” that teachers and students were afraid because individuals who had a history of antisocial, or sometimes violent, behavior were left unpunished or unchecked. They said rescinding this policy would address that issue.

In a statement released Tuesday, acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker said the report “provides a substantive blueprint for this Administration’s next steps to protect our young people. The Department of Justice will continue to support first responders and provide training for law enforcement officers and school personnel.”

According to the paper, the Obama-era policies gave schools guidance on how to discipline students in a “nondiscriminatory manner” and were implemented after “strong evidence” showed that minority students were being punished more frequently and in harsher ways than their white counterparts for the same or lesser offenses, “while disabled students were too quickly being shunted into remedial or special-education programs.”

The Times reported that the Departments of Justice and Education will jointly send a letter this week announcing the rescinding of the Obama-era policies.

The commission explored a range of issues including mental health treatment, social and emotional learning, the impact of armed school resource officers on safety, the impact of violent entertainment on children’s development, among others, according to DeVos.

The report also states that schools should have better access to health services, recommending that states find “new and creative” ways to fund on-site practitioners. It also recommends that states undertakes a “serious and significant review” of standards that are required to commit someone to longer term care.

In a joint statement provided to CNN on Tuesday, former Education Secretaries John King Jr. and Arne Duncan said that by rescinding the Obama-era policies, the Trump administration was “(turning) its back on our most vulnerable students.”

“Today’s recommendation to roll back guidance that would protect students from unfair, systemic school discipline practices is beyond disheartening,” the statement read, noting that research shows that minority students “are disproportionately affected by harsh and often unnecessary exclusionary discipline practices.”