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Department of Education - Request for Information Regarding the Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline

This notice is a request for information in the form of written comments that include information, research, and suggestions regarding the administration of school discipline in schools serving students in pre-K through grade 12. OCR solicits these comments to inform determinations about what policy guidance, technical assistance, or other resources would assist schools that serve students in pre-K through grade 12 with improving school climate and safety, consistent with the civil rights laws that OCR enforces, to ensure equal access to education programs and activities. OCR has promulgated regulations to implement civil rights laws and periodically provides policy guidance and technical assistance to clarify these statutory and regulatory requirements. Information received through this request may be used to assist OCR in preparing further guidance, technical assistance, and other resources.

DATES: We must receive your comments on or before July 23, 2021.

ADDRESSES: Written comments may be submitted as indicated below:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Using Docket ID number “ED-2021-OCR-0068”, please go to www.regulations.gov to submit your comments electronically. Information on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket, is available on the site.

  • Mail: If you do not have internet access or electronic submission is not possible, you may mail written comments to the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, Potomac Center Plaza (PCP), 550 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024. Mailed comments must be postmarked by July 23, 2021, to be accepted. Comments submitted by email or fax will not be accepted.

Privacy Note: The Department’s policy is to make all electronic comments received from members of the public available for public viewing in their entirety on the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. Therefore, commenters should be careful to include in their comments only information that they wish to make publicly available.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Alejandro Reyes, Director, Program Legal Group, Office for Civil Rights, Potomac Center Plaza (PCP), room 6125, 550 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024. Telephone: (202) 245-7272. Email: Alejandro.Reyes@ed.gov.

If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) or a text telephone (TTY), please call the Federal Relay Service (FRS), toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.

If you have difficulty understanding English, you may request language assistance services for Department information that is available to the public. These language assistance services are available free of charge. If you need more information about interpretation or translation services, please call 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800- 872-5327) (TTY: 1-800-877-8339).


Please address one or more of the following questions or requests:

  1. What are your views on the usefulness of current and previous guidance OCR and CRT have issued on school discipline? We would appreciate your comments on the guidance documents described above, including the 2014 guidance, the 2018 Dear Colleague letter, and the 2018 Questions & Answers on Racial Discrimination and School Discipline guidance.
  2. What ongoing or emerging school discipline policies or practices are relevant to you or the communities you serve, including any that you believe raise concerns about potentially discriminatory implementation or effects on students’ access to educational opportunities based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability?
  3. What promising practices for the administration of nondiscriminatory school discipline or creating positive school climates have you identified?
  4. What are your views on this non-exhaustive list of disciplinary policies, practices, and other issues below?
    1. Discipline of students in pre-K through third grade, including in-school and out-of-school suspensions.
    2. Use of exclusionary disciplinary penalties, such as suspensions or expulsions, for minor, non-violent, or subjectively defined types of infractions, such as defiance or disrespect of authority.
    3. Discipline issues relating to dress and grooming codes (including restrictions on hairstyles).
    4. Corporal punishment.
    5. Inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint for disciplinary purposes.
    6. Referrals to and the resulting interactions with school police, school resource officers, or other law enforcement.
    7. Referrals to alternative schools and programs.
    8. Threat assessment practices.
    9. Students bringing weapons or using them at school.
    10. Use of surveillance technologies in a discriminatory manner.
    11. School policies or practices related to teacher and staff training related to discipline, the role teachers play in referrals of students for discipline, and the role of implicit bias in disciplinary decisions.
    12. Discipline related to attendance and time management.
    13. Discipline of victims of race, color, or national origin harassment, sex harassment, or disability harassment for misconduct that arises as a result of such harassment.
    14. Zero tolerance or strict, three-strike policies.
    15. Reintegration of students who return to school after a long-term out-of-school suspension or expulsion.
    16. Discipline issues relating to virtual learning.
    17. Discipline issues relating to returning to in-person instruction.
    18. Discipline issues relating to activities off school campus or in virtual school settings, such as bullying through social media usage.
  5. What types of guidance and technical assistance can OCR provide to best help SEAs and LEAs create positive, inclusive, safe, and supportive school climates and identify, address, and remedy discriminatory student discipline policies and practices (for example, Dear Colleague letters, Frequently Asked Questions documents, fact sheets, tool kits, videos on the nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline or positive school climate, and guidance on returning students to in-person instruction)?
  6. What promising practices that have reduced the use of discipline or the disparities in the use of discipline between different groups of students (including promising evidence-based programs and success stories from particular school districts) should OCR consider highlighting in any future guidance or resource materials?
  7. How do school discipline policies impact (a) students’ opportunity to learn; (b) academic achievement; (c) students’ mental health; (d) drop out and graduation rates; (e) school climate and safety; (f) access to instructional time; (g) teacher retention and satisfaction; (h) the rates at which staff refer students for formal discipline; (i) student participation in STEM courses, honors and advanced placement courses, arts and theater, and extra-curricular programming; (j) impact of discipline records on access to scholarships or on enrollment in college; (k) student participation in ceremonies (for example, graduation ceremonies and National Honor Society ceremonies); and (l) life outcomes (for example, earnings, reliance on public support, income, employment opportunities, and housing)?
  8. To what extent can hiring and professional development practices be designed and aligned to ensure that teachers and staff are adequately prepared to manage classrooms and work with students in a fair and equitable manner?
  9. Describe any data collection, analysis, or record-keeping practices that you believe are helpful in identifying and addressing disparities in discipline. Conversely, describe any barriers or limitations in these areas, and any ideas you may have on how to overcome them.