SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today sent a letter to schools throughout the state to remind them of their legal obligations under California law to protect the civil rights of all students. Today’s letter follows the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice rescinding critical portions of the School Discipline Guidance Package (2014 Guidance) previously issued by the same federal agencies in 2014. The 2014 Guidance provides valuable tools and information to California school administrators on how to achieve an equitable and safe classroom environment, without visiting unfair and unnecessary harm on students through the use of suspensions and expulsions as the primary form of discipline in schools. Although key portions of the federal 2014 Guidance were rescinded by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, the California Department of Justice reminds schools of their obligation to follow California law, which is consistent with the 2014 Guidance.
“If we are not vigilant in how we administer discipline in our schools, we run the risk of extinguishing the promise of the American dream for millions of California students,” said Attorney General Becerra. “While the Trump Administration turns its back on the goals that so many civil rights leaders fought for, we in California are redoubling our efforts and continue to vigorously fight for their fulfillment.”
Policies to protect the civil rights of students are critical in the face of reports indicating that implicit bias among school administrators leads to students of color, boys, and those with disabilities being disproportionately subjected to disciplinary action. In California, African-American students are suspended at three times the rate of White students, and they lose nearly four times the number of days of instruction to suspensions and expulsions as White students. The 2014 Guidance was originally put in place to protect students against these very issues, and its alternative methods for creating safe schools remain of vital importance.
The California Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights of each and every student in California, and will use all the tools at its disposal to help create safe and healthy learning environments in classrooms throughout the state. Last month, the California Department of Justice and the Stockton Unified School District reached an agreement to address system-wide violations of the civil and constitutional rights of African-American and Latino students and students with disabilities. Attorney General Becerra led a multistate letter last year expressing concern over the Trump Administration’s indication that it would rescind key portions of the 2014 Guidance, a step the Trump Administration ultimately took in December 2018.
Attorney General Becerra encourages those with information regarding suspected practices in violation of state or federal law in schools to report them to the Bureau of Children’s Justice in the California Department of Justice Civil Rights Enforcement Section, through the online complaint form located at https://oag.ca.gov/bcj/complaint, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A complete copy of today’s letter to schools across the state can be found here.