Department of Education and Department of Justice Issue New Dear Colleague Letter on Student Discipline

On December 21, 2018, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice jointly issued a Dear Colleague Letter concerning the administration of school discipline. With the letter, the Departments also issued a Questions and Answers on Racial Discrimination and School Discipline.  The Dear Colleague Letter effectively withdrew a number of guidance documents on the nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline issued in 2014. The Department of Education and Department of Justice noted, “States and local school districts play the primary role in establishing educational policy, including how to handle specific instances of student misconduct and discipline, and in ensuring that classroom teachers have the support they need to implement appropriate discipline policies.” The Departments confirmed that civil rights protections against race, color, and national origin discrimination still stand. Similarly, the Departments confirmed Title VI still applies to protect students from race discrimination as it relates to discipline in the school setting.

When issuing student discipline, school districts in Illinois must continue to be mindful of their obligations under Senate Bill 100. While the Dear Colleague Letter withdrew previous federal guidance on school discipline, it did not impact state law (i.e. Senate Bill 100). Furthermore, school districts in Illinois must remain vigilant about discrimination in the administration of student discipline to ensure students are not treated differently during the disciplinary process due to race, color, or national origin.

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