Equity in School Discipline

In April, the Office of Student Wellness, located within the New Hampshire Department of Education, partnered with the New England Equity Assistance Center of Brown University to offer a day-long conference on school discipline. The conference was intended for New Hampshire educators in leadership roles. It provided technical assistance around federal discipline requirements as well as discussion and networking sessions on related issues.

Dr. Virginia Barry, New Hampshire Department of Education commissioner, began the day by reminding attendees that NH’s diversity is growing in our youth.  She encouraged NH school administration to engage our youth, rather than disciplining them.  Dr. Barry was followed by Maria Pacheco, Executive Director of the New England Equity Assistance Center, who briefly described the Center’s role as promoting equity in discipline. 


Robert Kim, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Operations for the US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR), began his presentation by stating that civil rights are something we all care deeply about in this country, but sometimes lose sight of.  Mr. Kim presented data that showed some of the inequities in US public schools – disparities in access to higher level classes, in discipline, and in graduates with higher education degrees. 


Mr. Kim addressed the data that OCR collects and explained how they disaggregate by race, ethnicity, gender, limited English proficiency, and disability.  He then spent time reviewing OCR resolutions to investigations of complaints at various universities and school districts throughout the country.  You can review this guidance in his PowerPoint slides. 


The presentation from Anthony Cruthird, the Equity and Diversity Specialist from the New England Equity Assistance Center, included resources for educators and administrators to ensure their schools are compliant with federal requirements.  He stated that a good starting place for participants was to read the Dear Colleague Letter (DCL).  Mr. Cruthird also referenced a very helpful action planning guide, Addressing the Root Causes of Disparities in School Discipline. 


Dr. Trinidad Tellez, the Director of the NH Office of Minority Health & Refugee Affairs,

provided an overview of NH’s changing demographics in our public schools.  She shared findings from UNH’s Carsey School of Public Policy latest issue brief, Exclusionary Discipline Highest in New Hampshire’s Urban Schools.  Dr. Tellez closed by debriefing a video of a principal talking about when she met a student she expelled, and how it changed her approach to discipline. 


The NH Office of Student Wellness has posted all the PowerPoint presentations, live-stream video, and several additional resources on their website: http://www.nhstudentwellness.org/discipline


By Amy Parece-Grogan, M.Ed.
Behavioral Health Cultural & Linguistic Competence Coordinator, New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services