WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, authored an op-ed in the Hartford Courant to make the case for reforms to school discipline, which disproportionately impacts Black, Latino and LGBTQ+ students, those from low-income backgrounds, and students with disabilities. In the op-ed, Murphy lays out his plan to reintroduce the Keeping All Students Safe Act, legislation to limit the use of seclusion and restraint in schools; the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act, which would prohibit the use of corporal punishment across the country; the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act, which would disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by investing federal funds in more counselors, psychologists, and social workers in schools rather than police officers; and additional legislation to give districts the resources they need to rethink school discipline and avoid the use of exclusionary discipline. 

“Every year in this country, tens of thousands of students are subject to harsh, exclusionary disciplinary tactics, including suspension, expulsion, corporal punishment, seclusion, restraint and school-based arrest — often for behaviors as simple as talking back to a teacher,” Murphy wrote. “This is especially true for Black, Latino and LGBTQ+ students, those from low-income backgrounds and students with disabilities. Black students, for example, are nearly four times as likely to be suspended and three times as likely to be arrested at school as their white peers.”

“Our number one priority should be making students feel safe and supported — and how schools reduce conflict and build cultures of trust and respect is essential to this work. That’s why I’ve been working on comprehensive reforms that end harmful practices and give schools the resources they need to lift up students who are struggling,” Murphy continued

Murphy concluded: “We need to stop treating our kids like they are criminals. And we need to stop pushing kids out of the classroom. School discipline that excludes students should only be used when the safety of the school is truly at risk. I hope every single parent will join me in backing common sense reforms to end outdated school discipline measures and send additional resources to help educators better support students. Let’s make 2021 the year we get this done.”

Last week, Murphy along with U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) led nine of their Senate colleagues in calling on the Biden administration to address discriminatory and punitive school disciplinary measures. In a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Attorney General Merrick Garland, the senators asked the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education to strengthen guidance on nondiscriminatory school discipline and advise schools to focus on restorative justice practices. Harsh discipline policies have led to a disproportionate number of suspensions and expulsions for students of color, LGBTQ students and students with disabilities.

You can read the full op-ed here.