Center for American Progress Action

RELEASE: With ESEA Reauthorization Underway, Sen. Chris Murphy and Sherrilyn Ifill Address Civil Rights, School Discipline, and Students with Disabilities in the K-12 Setting
Press Release

RELEASE: With ESEA Reauthorization Underway, Sen. Chris Murphy and Sherrilyn Ifill Address Civil Rights, School Discipline, and Students with Disabilities in the K-12 Setting

Washington, D.C. — With the House and Senate education committees moving forward with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, the Center for American Progress Action Fund today hosted Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. to discuss civil rights, inclusive school discipline practices, and ensuring academic success for students with disabilities in the K-12 setting. Remarks from Sen. Murphy and Ifill, followed by a panel of civil rights and disability policy experts, explored the ways disciplinary tactics influence all students and highlighted a key issue in our nation’s primary law that governs K-12 education: Disciplinary practices that are excessively punitive and that favor student expulsions and suspensions cut into important instruction time for students.

“I don’t think that Congress should get into the business of micromanaging school discipline policies. But if Congress doesn’t require schools to take steps to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline, some states, and some school districts, simply won’t do it. Why? Because legitimate, understandable political and financial pressures incentivize schools to simply get rid of kids who are harder to manage or teach and to make them someone else’s problem,” said Sen. Murphy. “That’s why I’m planning to introduce legislation that will simply require that school districts have policies that reduce unnecessary exclusionary discipline.”

“This is a bill that does everything but set students up for success. In fact, H.R. 5 turns back the clock on Brown by significantly repealing the federal oversight role and undermining hard-won protections for students of color and students with disabilities under federal laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. “We will not stand by idly as the fundamental right of education is undermined and dismantled in the name of partisanship and that old phrase, ‘states’ rights.’ We’ve left the provision of education up to the sole discretion of states before, and what we saw was the relegation of students of color and with disabilities to substandard educational experiences.”

“We have a moral responsibility to educate all students—particularly those who are at risk or who have special needs—to the highest level possible and to ensure that students are not pushed out, marginalized, or overlooked,” said Carmel Martin, CAP Action Fund Executive Vice President for Policy. “Today’s conversation at CAP Action served as an opportunity to shine a light on the impact of bad discipline policies and their effect on students with disabilities and minorities. ”

To watch a video of the event, click here.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at apreiss@americanprogress.org or 202.478.6331.

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