Time for Secretary DeVos to Rescind Obama-Era School Discipline Policies

Read this piece in full at Manhattan Institute

The ‘Dear Colleague’ letter is unfair & has had harmful consequences for all.

by Max Eden, Jonathan Butcher, and Lindsey Burke

School’s out for the summer, but the biggest question the Trump administration should answer before the fall remains: Will Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stop Washington from coercing school districts to adopt former President Barack Obama’s progressive approach to school discipline and safety?

The Obama administration’s 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter on school discipline still hovers over local school districts. That letter advanced policies pioneered in Broward County, Fla., which — as local reporting has shown — created a climate that may have allowed confessed Stoneman Douglas shooter Nikolas Cruz to slip through the cracks without a criminal record, despite committing multiple crimes. The tragedy prompted the Trump administration to launch a school-safety commission, tasked in part with recommending whether to repeal the Dear Colleague letter. But, months after the tragedy, the letter remains on the books, maintaining federal pressure on school districts to follow Broward’s lead.

The letter was purportedly issued to warn schools that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights would investigate schools based on the rates at which students of different races are disciplined. It advised school districts that traditional discipline policies ought to be used only “as a last resort.”

Read the piece at National Review, originally appearing on July 6, 2018.


Max Eden is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter here.

Jonathan Butcher is a senior policy analyst at, and Lindsey M. Burke is the director of, the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation.