Who cares when students complain about racism in school discipline? Not Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos continues to try to roll back protections for the most vulnerable students in American schools.

It was a terrible idea to make Betsy DeVos America’s Education Secretary—but then again a majority of us knew that. Over the last year-plus that she has been in the Trump administration, she has steadily worked to roll back protections for the nation’s most vulnerable students. DeVos doesn’t believe in civil rights in education, or in public education, for that matter. And she’s made it her mission to make life as hard as possible for public school students until they all end up in the private and charter schools she’s so fond of. 

Under DeVos’s leadership earlier this year the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights began dismissing civil rights complaints that it deemed as burdensome to the office. And she’s been considering rescinding Obama-era guidance meant to protect students from racial inequities in school discipline policies. But those policies are sorely needed. According to the Huffington Post, more than 200 civil rights complaints were received by the Department of Education from students who say that they’d been victims of racist school discipline policies.

In fiscal year 2017, the Department of Education received 216 complaints on this issue, according to data from the department provided to HuffPost. This is a small decline ― around 20 percent ― from 2016, when the department received 265 complaints, but higher than 2015, when the department received 208 complaints.

Several education experts told HuffPost that the dip in discipline complaints is likely a result of a natural ebb and flow, devoid of meaningful implications. Others speculated that the Trump administration has had a silencing effect on people who might otherwise have filed a complaint.

This is not just about the numbers. 216 complaints may be a small percentage compared to the number of students in public schools nationwide, but we know that research clearly demonstrates that students of color, particularly black students, are treated more harshly and receive disproportionate discipline in schools.

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