Press Releases

GAO Report: Education Department Decision to Scrap Obama-Era School Discipline Guidance in Response to Mass Shootings is Unfounded

Washington, July 9, 2020
Tags: Crime

Washington, D.C. – A new report released today by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals that a majority of fatalities are a result of school-targeted shootings, which are more prevalent in wealthier, low-minority areas. The report, requested by Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby Scott and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, is the first government-mandated collection of data on school shootings.

The report findings undermine the Trump administration’s reasoning for scaling back civil rights protections in K-12 schools, particularly Obama-era guidance issued in 2014 to address racial disparities in school discipline practices.

Following the shootings in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas in 2018, rather than working with Congress on gun control measures, the Trump administration established a federal school safety commission. In December 2018, without evidence, the commission recommended rescinding the 2014 Obama-era guidance on the grounds that curbing disproportionate suspensions of students of color has made schools less safe.

However, GAO’s new report found no causal link between punitive discipline practices like suspensions and expulsions and school shooting—disputing the Trump administration’s claim that a lack of suspensions and expulsions of students of color contributes to mass school shootings.

“This report reveals what we already knew to be true: The Department’s refusal to fully enforce federal civil rights law is based on rhetoric, not facts,” said Chairman Scott. “Rather than working closely with Congress to enact common sense gun safety laws supported by an overwhelming majority of voters, the Trump administration used its school safety commission report to send the wrong and baseless message that schools are safest when they discriminate against students of color. It’s time for this administration to support evidence-based solutions to help states and schools keep students safe—without employing racially discriminatory discipline practices.”

“Today’s report confirms that the Trump Administration has no interest in protecting students from gun violence,” said Chairman Nadler.Following the tragedy in Parkland, thousands of students across the country demanded gun reform. Rather than heeding this call, the Administration claimed, without a shred of evidence, that an Obama-era school disciplinary guidance meant to reduce racial disparities in discipline actually endangered student safety. This report confirms that there is absolutely no link between these protections and gun violence in our schools. It is time for the Administration to finally come to grips with reality, and I hope this will provide the necessary urgency to enact real gun safety measures.”

Last year, the Committee advanced the School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act, which establishes a definition of “school shooting” in federal law and helps measure and address the impact of gun violence on children and educators.

To read “K-12 Education: Characteristics of School Shootings,” click here.