Disparate Impact in School Discipline

Civil Rights Practice Group and Regulatory Transparency Project Teleforum

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The Obama administration was aggressive in its use of the “disparate impact” approach to civil-rights enforcement, which holds that policies that have a different statistical result for various demographic groups are illegally discriminatory even if they are neutral by their terms, in their intent, and in their application. One example is in the school discipline area, where the administration’s Department of Education sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to state and local education officials, warning that this approach would be vigorously applied in K-12 schools receiving federal money and thus subject to the nondiscrimination provisions of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 

Critics claim that this has resulted in students not being disciplined who should be, with the resulting disruption meaning that many students — and disproportionately poor and minority students — now have worse learning environments and that some teachers are being put at physical risk. Proponents of the policy claim it is necessary to protect the disciplined.

Jason Riley of the Manhattan Institute has recently written on this topic in his Wall Street Journal column, and Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity has worked on this issue for the Federalist Society’s Regulatory Transparency Project. Both experts will join us to discuss this important topic.


Roger B. Clegg, President and General Counsel, Center for Equal Opportunity

Jason Riley, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Columnist, The Wall Street Journal; Author: False Black Power


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