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Excerpted From: Maja Tosic, Shutting down the School-to-Prison Pipeline, 94 Southern California Law Review Postscript 80 (April 2021) (135 Footnotes) (Full Document)
When a student misbehaves, race plays a role in how harshly the student is disciplined. Given the long history of racial discrimination in the United States, as well as prevalent implicit biases, Black and Latino students are disciplined at higher rates with stiffer punishments than their white peers. This higher level of discipline leads to a downward spiral of poor school performance and attendance, involvement in illegal activity, and arrest and imprisonment. Ultimately, Black and Latino students fall victim to a school-to-prison pipeline that many white students are not pushed into despite similar misbehavior. In order to protect students from the pipeline, equalize educational opportunities, and create a safe and welcoming school environment, it is necessary for the federal government to invalidate disciplinary policies that cause an unjustified, disparate impact.
Under President Obama, a first-ever policy guidance on student discipline was issued, which stated that not only are intentionally discriminatory policies unlawful per Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but so too are facially neutral policies that cause an unjustified disparate impact. The Trump Administration rolled back the policy guidance, citing that a disparate impact policy is not a Title VI violation per current precedent and that invalidating disparate impact disciplinary policies makes schools less safe and more prone to shootings. This Note will examine those arguments and will conclude that the disparate impact standard is supported by current precedent, does not increase the rate of school shootings, and ultimately should be reinstated. The disparate impact standard is a necessary safeguard against negative, implicit attitudes and is an important step in eradicating the school-to-prison pipeline.
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In order to challenge the racial disparity in student discipline and to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline, the disparate impact standard should be restored. Racial disparity is not only the result of intentional discrimination but is more so created by policies with unintentional, disparate impacts. The disparate impact standard is supported by current legal precedent and is a necessary tool to confront the social-psychological factors bolstering the racial disparity. Restoring the disparate impact standard is a needed step in increasing students' institutional trust, challenging school staff's implicit attitudes, and repairing student-teacher relationships. Ultimately, the standard is a safeguard against discriminatory decisions and is necessary to eliminate the existing school-to-prison pipeline.
Executive Notes Editor, Southern California Law Review, Volume 94; J.D. Candidate 2021, University of Southern California Gould School of Law; B.S. Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience 2016, University of Michigan.
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