(Washington, D.C.) Today, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida released a letter erroneously blaming the tragic Parkland shooting on policy guidance to schools from the Department of Education and Department of Justice in 2014. The Obama-era guidance reminded schools of their responsibilities to avoid discrimination against students of color in student discipline and provided suggestions for how schools could do so. Rubio made the unsupportable assertion that the guidance may have led school officials to fail to report the school shooter’s dangerous behaviors to local law enforcement agencies.
The following is a statement by Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center:
“Senator Rubio is exploiting the murders of students and teachers to justify discarding important protections against discrimination in schools. Across the country, students of color, and especially Black students, face inexcusably high rates of suspensions, expulsions and school arrests – much higher than the rates at which their white peers are disciplined. Nationally, Black girls are only 15.6 percent of girls enrolled in school but 37.3 percent of girls arrested, even though there’s no evidence they act out more often. The guidance was an essential and effective call for schools to end this terrible trend. To reverse or rescind it would send a clear message to educators that, in the Trump era, discrimination is permissible.
“Unsurprisingly, Senator Rubio presented no evidence that the discipline guidance has been a factor in any school shooting. The Parkland shooter, for example, had already been expelled from his school and repeatedly reported to police well before last month. Perhaps rather than blaming key antidiscrimination protections, Senator Rubio should focus on what will actually stop school shootings: gun safety.”